Calipers: Simulation-Based Assessments

Assessments

Assessments were developed key areas of middle and high school science: forces and motion (physical science) and populations and ecosystems (life science). Three assessments for each area were developed, for a total of six assessments. Each assessment captures students' explicit answers to selected response and open-ended questions, values chosen on slider bars, drawn arrows, as well as indirect data such as time on tasks, the numbers of attempts, and the sequence of attempts.

Forces and Motion

In the physical science assessments, students use simulations to investigate how their knowledge of forces and motion will help them dispatch and monitor progress of two mountain rescue teams (Lynx and Wolf) to rescue injured skiers. The driving question is: Which of the teams will get to injured skiers first?

Along the way, each team encounters challenges. Simulations support calculations and analyses, and animations show progress of each team on mountain. Students begin by calculating the time needed for the rescue snowmobile to reach the victims. They identify and explain the types of forces acting on the snowmobile on different terrain surfaces and slopes. For the set of activities in each challenge, the students use their data on forces and motion affecting the snowmobile to communicate recommendations to the rescue teams.

Watch clips of the different Mountain Rescue challenges below (requires Quicktime). Note: the responses are for illustration purposes only and may not represent the correct answers. Movies are available in normal speed and fast speed.

Populations and Ecosystems

In the life science assessments, students investigate a fish world ecosystem. They explore more or less complex food chains, from simple predator-prey relations between two species to situations involving competition for scarce resources, and the effect on the ecosystem of the introduction of a novel species.

Students begin by observing animations of species in the ecosystem and answering questions about the predators, prey, and their relationships. The students then specify values and variables such as numbers of predator and prey, make predictions, and run the simulation to observe the results presented as the ecosystem in action along with coordinated, dynamically generated population graphs.

Watch clip of the Fish World assessments (requires Quicktime). Note: the responses are for illustration purposes only and may not represent the correct answers. Movies are available in fast speed.