Formative Assessment Probe: Is It Erosion?

Science and Children , March 2016 Volume 53, Number 7 Page Keeley
Type Category
Assessment Materials
Assessment Item , Informative Text
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This article and associated formative assessment probe can be used to determine students' prior knowledge and misconceptions about weathering and erosion. Implemented before or during a weathering/erosion unit, it is best used as a tool to determine the necessity for additional instruction. The associated article connects the probe to appropriate NGSS disciplinary core ideas, providing background knowledge on weatheringand erosion for teachers, common misconceptions to look for, and different methods for using the probes with various groups of students.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Available by subscription - The right to view and/or download material, often for a set period of time, by way of a financial agreement between rights holders and authorized users.

Performance Expectations

4-ESS2-1 Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.

Clarification Statement: Examples of variables to test could include angle of slope in the downhill movement of water, amount of vegetation, speed of wind, relative rate of deposition, cycles of freezing and thawing of water, cycles of heating and cooling, and volume of water flow.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to a single form of weathering or erosion.

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Since this resource is intended as a formative assessment to determine student's prior knowledge, it only requires students to categorize natural processes based on that knowledge.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students will participate in this activity on an individual basis, rather than by citing evidence from peers. Once students have been officially introduced to the topic of erosion and weathering, they may use the card/category sort activity in group settings as a means of reinforcing content learned. Students may then have an opportunity to critique the scientific evidence proposed by peers. They may share their ideas via a science talk, basing their ideas on past experiences, allowing them to engage in argument strategies.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students using the worksheet in Figure 1 of the probe might journal their responses to the "Explain Your Thinking" questions included. Students could write short responses detailing their reasoning for comparing differences between erosion and weathering.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Cause and effect is not explicitly referred to in this probe. Students would need to develop contextual understanding of and differences between terms of erosion and weathering. The teacher would explicitly discuss cause and effect when introducing these concepts. Questions for discussion could include- "What is the cause/effect of both weathering and erosion?" Students could then observe several examples of each, (photos, videos) discussing changes that occurred over time.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource does not provide students with an opportunity to engage in three-dimensional learning as it is a type of formative assessment and does not explicitly or implicitly address a cross cutting concept.

  • Instructional Supports: This formative assessment probe is intended to elicit student content knowledge and potential misconceptions about the concepts of weathering and erosion. It does not provide suggestions for use with diverse student populations. Vocabulary may be unfamiliar to students; teacher /student read-aloud of probe, or student pairing for reading may be included.The probe is presented in¬†worksheet form, but may be¬†adapted as a card sort.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The article provides the teacher with several options for determining student understanding- both in written form as well as through class discussion. Further information for the teacher may be compiled from student responses to the evidence question on worksheet provided. Students are also provided with an opportunity to reflect on their learning by responding to questions assessing their "before" and "after" knowledge. Their responses will also provide the teacher with a informal measurement of student growth. The card sort mentioned in the description section above could be used as another option for assessment.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include any type of technological interaction for students.