IntelAssessing Projects : Using Assessment to Improve Teaching and Learning

Intermediate Phase Assessment Plans | Senior / FET Phase Assessment Plans


Accidental Discoveries


At a Glance

Grade Level: 6-8
Subjects: General Science
Topics: Properties of Matter, Science as a Human Endeavor, Scientific Inquiry Process
Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Analyze and Synthesize Information, Classify Information
Key Learnings:Mass, Volume, Density, Measurement, Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter, Experimental Design
Time Needed: Three weeks (90 minutes every other day or 45 minutes every day)

Things You Need

Assessing Projects (CD)

Assessing Projects* (online)

Project Summary
Accident or serendipity? The Essential Question: How can we benefit from our accidents? is explored by asking learners to reflect on a time in their life when a mistake or accident reaped positive benefits; learners analyze what skills and processes they used in their situation. To connect this understanding to the project, learners role-play scientists/inventors who have been hired to find a marketable use for a new substance that was created accidentally in a lab. Learners research the question: How have scientists used their accidents or mistakes to make our world a better place? Learners find answers to the question, In what ways can science methods help you accomplish a goal? by finding a marketable purpose for the new substance. Learners must use their knowledge of properties of matter and experimentation processes to prove that their idea will work and eventually persuade people to buy their product. As a culminating project, learners create labels for their products that synthesize all their learning for the purpose of marketing their product for consumers.

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    How can we benefit from our accidents?
  • Focus Questions
    How have scientists in the past used their accidents or mistakes to make our world a better place?
    In what ways can science methods help you accomplish a goal?
  • Content Questions
    What investigations are necessary to derive physical and chemical properties of a substance?
    What are the relationships among mass, volume, and density?
    How do you set up a scientific experiment?

Assessment Timeline
This timeline shows in chronological order the different types of formal and informal assessments that occur during the project. The table below explains how each assessment is used and who uses it for what purpose.

Assessment Timeline

Before project work begins

Learners work on projects and
complete tasks

After project work is completed

  • Discussion
  • Journal


  • Prediction and Observation Chart
  • Physical Properties Rubric
  • Data Management Chart
  • Meetings
  • Experiment Process Rubric
  • Experiment Checklist
  • Using Data to Persuade Rubric
  • Label Checklist
  • Reflection Journal
  • Performance-Based Assessment


Process and Purpose of Assessment
Prior Knowledge Journal Learners use their journal entry to reflect on how they react when making a mistake or accident. The teacher uses the information the learners share to facilitate a class discussion and adjust instruction based on learners’ experiences.

Physical Properties Rubric

Learners use the rubric to guide their thinking process during the slime lab and as a basis for peer feedback when assessing other members in their group. The teacher uses the rubric to assess organization and thinking skills and to adjust teaching on processing a lab and identifying and measuring physical properties. The rubric is adapted to match the adjustments made to the lab activity for different levels of learners: Slime Lab, Adapted Lab One, Adapted Lab Two, or Adapted Lab Three.
Data Management Chart
The data management chart helps learners construct meaningful interpretations from cumulative data and apply those interpretations in the final label project. The teacher uses the data table to highlight measurements that are outside the parameters of acceptable accuracy and discusses with the class. It provides a quick glance at how the class is doing as a whole and reveals to the teacher where learners may need more teaching.
Experiment Process Rubric Learners use the rubric before, during, and after their experiments to monitor the quality of the experiments so they may be useful to the final project. The rubric is also used for learners to assess other group member’s experiments and provide feedback that can be applied to the second round of experiments and ultimately the final project. The teacher uses the rubric to assess the relevancy of the experiment as compared to the group planning sheet, as a basis for questions in the second round of group conferences, and as a final assessment for the second round of experiments.
Experiment Checklist
Learners use this to monitor their progress when constructing their experiment and to give other team member’s feedback.
Meeting Questions
The teacher conferences with each group to provide feedback on investigation plans and ideas before their experiment to make sure interpretations of the task are correct; and after their experiment to validate or redirect. Learners use the conference sheet for reflection, to ask specific questions, and to clarify procedures.
Using Data to Persuade Rubric Groups use the rubric to guide their process in developing their final product label and later to assess each other’s individual label. The teacher uses the rubric to assess each learner individually on their label and also the group’s overall product idea.
Label Checklist Learners use this to monitor their progress when designing their label and to give other team member’s feedback.
Reflection Journal The reflection allows learners the chance to generalize how science processes and skills helped them in completing the tasks in the unit. The teacher assesses whether learners were able to synthesize their learning and observes common errors and strengths of the project so adjustments can be made if needed.
Performance- Based Assessment A final assessment is used to assess learner’s ability to transfer new learning to a new situation. The performance task allows the teacher one more opportunity to observe learner’s ability to measure and derive properties of matter on an individual basis.

Theresa Maves participated in the Intel® Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for an assessment plan. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.