Formative Assessment Probe
This is the 12th book in the Uncovering Student Ideas in Science series. Like the other books in this series, Uncovering Student Ideas in Engineering and Technology provides a collection of unique questions, called formative assessment probes, that are purposefully designed to reveal preconceptions students bring to their learning as well as to identify misunderstandings students develop during instruction that may go unnoticed by the teacher. Each probe is carefully researched to develop distracters that mirror commonly held ideas students have about the key ideas or practices. The probes are not grade-specific. They are designed to be used across multiple grade spans as well as with adults for professional learning or preservice education, especially since alternative ideas that go unchallenged often follow students from one grade to the next, right into adulthood.
The purpose of this assessment probe is to elicit students’ ideas about technological systems. The probe is designed to determine the extent to which students recognize that all systems are nested within and interconnected with larger systems.
Always, sometimes, never
The best answer is A: A technological system is always part of a larger system. For example, an athletic shoe worn by a basketball player has several different parts, each designed to give the wearer comfort and support. The shoe is just one part of a basketball player’s clothing, which in turn is part of a larger system that includes the ball and net, the court, and chairs or benches for the spectators. If it is a high school game, the basketball system includes uniforms and pom-poms used by cheerleaders, school buses that transport teams to different cities, and newspapers that report the results.
In practice, it is sometimes a useful simplification to define and think of a system as being by itself so that it can be analyzed or operated fairly independently of outside influences. For example, in a controlled scientific experiment, scientists often go to great lengths to isolate a system under study from external influences that might disturb it during the experiment. This is an example of a situation in which it is useful to think of a system by itself. In general, though, it is important in engineering to encourage students to consider how a system fits in with other systems, since a change in one system may cause changes in related systems.
This probe is best used with students in grades 6–12, after they learn that a system is made up of interacting parts. You can extend the probe by having students provide examples to support their answer choice.
CCC: Systems and System Models
Dalrymple, O., D. Sears, and D. Evangelou. 2010. Evaluating the motivational and learning potential of an instructional practice for use with first year engineering students. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Engineering Education, Louisville.
Mehalik, M. M., Y. Doppelt, and C. D. Schunn. 2008. Middle-school science through design-based learning versus scripted inquiry: Better overall science concept learning and equity gap reduction. Journal of Engineering Education 97 (1): 71-85.
National Research Council (NRC). 2012. A framework for K–12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. www.nextgenscience. org/next-generation-science-standards.
Silk, E. M., and C. D. Schunn. 2008. Core concepts in engineering as a basis for understanding and improving K–12 engineering education in the United States. Report to the National Academy of Engineering Committee on Understanding and Improving K–12 Engineering Education in the United States. http://elisilk.net/research/ SilkSchunn2008a-NAE-FinalDraft.pdf.
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