By walking through this sample adaptation of a PALS task, you can begin to see how you yourself can modify performance assessment tasks. We start here with the actual standards used in a task's development and move towards the creation of specific targets or goals. These elements of a task design can be found in the first part of a task's Administration Procedures. Targets, which are not specified in the PALS library, must be created.

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Administration Procedures

Contributed by: TIMSS



Student investigates the effect of different container materials on heat transfer; draws a conclusion about the best insulator; and applies concept to a new, seemingly quite different problem.

Students are given two sets of three containers of different insulating capacity, for example, metal, ceramic, and plastic, and are asked to: (1) find out which one would keep a hot drink warm for the longest time; (2) design and conduct an experiment to determine which container would keep a cold drink cold for the longest time. They also receive thermometers, a clock, a piece of card to use as a fan, a supply of hot water, and a supply of ice water. In the first part of the activity, the students are instructed to pour a measure of hot water into each of the containers, and to take the temperature in each one over a ten-minute interval. They are provided with a pre-designed data table in which to record their observations. This task assesses students' ability to make and record measurements of temperature and probes their understanding of the concept of insulation.

During the second part of the activity, students first design an experiment to determine which container keeps a cold drink cold for the longest time. After designing the experiment, students are provided with directions for conducting it. They complete the experiment and record their observations.




Students measure the rates of cooling when hot water is poured into containers of differential material. Then students design and conduct an experiment to determine which container would keep a cold drink cold for the longest time. They are expected to organize their data and report their conclusions. Part of this exercise is to assess students' ability to measure with a thermometer.

This task is designed to take students approximately 20 to 30 50 to 60 minutes to complete.




Overall Task Content Area:

Physical Science


Specific Knowledge Areas:

Physical Properties of Matter

- specific heat and temperature

Understanding Heat


Doing Scientific Inquiry

-design and conduct investigation

-use simple equipment and tools

Understanding Scientific Inquiry

-developing observations using evidence



Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • designing investigations
  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations and solve new problems



National Science Education Standards:

4 B PS 1: Properties of objects and materials: Grades K-4

1.1 Objects have many observable properties, including size, weight, shape, color, temperature, and the ability to react with other substances. Those properties can be measured using tools, such as rulers, balances, and thermometers.

4BPS3: Light, Heat, Electricity, and Magnetism

3.2 Heat can move from one object to another by conduction.



4 A SI 1: Ability to do scientific inquiry: Grades K-4

1.2 Plan and conduct a simple investigation.




1.3 Employ simple equipment and tools to gather data.

4 A SI 2: Understanding about scientific inquiry: Grades K-4

2.4 Scientists develop explanations using observations (evidence) and what they already know about the world (scientific knowledge). Good explanations are based on evidence from investigations.


Achievement Targets


Knowledge Targets

  • Understands the concepts of heat transfer and insulation
  • Understands the steps to complete an experiment to test which containers keep a drink hottest
  • Understands the steps involved in planning an experiment to test which containers keep a drink coldest

Reasoning Targets

  • Uses findings to construct reasonable explanations about why a container is the best insulator
  • Reasons about how materials influence heat transfer
  • Uses findings to solve new problems

Skill Targets

  • Makes and records measurements of temperature
  • Gathers data
  • Organizes data
  • Represents data in a table

Product Targets

  • Uses skills and reasoning to clearly answer questions in the assessment

Click here to see another example of how to adapt the standards

continue to step 2, adapting task and task design, or learn more about targets before you go on.

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