Calipers: Simulation-Based Assessments

About the Calipers Project

The Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International, in collaboration with the Concord Consortium and WestEd, used technology-based simulations to develop and study a new generation of assessment systems. This two year demonstration project studied the potential of technology- and simulation-based assessments to provide high-quality evidence of complex performances in science tests for both accountability and formative goals. The goals of the first Calipers project were to:

  1. Develop assessment designs and exemplars that take advantage of simulation environments to provide benchmark assessments of achievement of science standards that can be used as formative information about conceptual understanding and extended inquiry, as well as evidence for external accountability purposes;
  2. Document the assessment task design templates and technical infrastructure and processes employed;
  3. Provide evidence of the feasibility, usability, and technical quality of the new simulation-based assessments;
  4. Prepare a plan for development of a pool of complex assessments linked to key strands in the AAAS Atlas of Science Literacy and core National Science Education Standards (NSES); and
  5. Explore the use of assessment-oriented simulations for students' science knowledge and inquiry across content in physics, chemistry, and biology and across levels (district and state) of the educational accountability system.

The project developed simulation-based assessments for two fundamental science key ideas, "Forces and Motion" and "Ecosystems." The assessment designs were aligned with National Science Education Standards and the AAAS Benchmarks. Curriculum analyses aligned the assessment prototypes with representative text-based and technology-based curricula. Simulation shells and storyboards guided the programming of the interactive assessments.