To assess does not mean to test!

Remember when every single unit ended in an exam in high school? Did you enjoy it? What if you’re not a good test taker? Did it show the entirety of your knowledge on the topic? Not all assessments are built for everyone!

What if I told you there are NUMEROUS ways to assess a student’s scientific knowledge that do NOT include an exam?? Interested?

An article titled “Rethinking the Role of the Science Teacher” in The Science Teacher journal states: “…teachers are in the best position to put assessment data to the most powerful use.”

Here’s an example of a teacher implementing GAMES into her classroom as an assessment strategy!

Here’s some other examples of powerful uses of assessment:

Need a way to assess how well a student knows the cell organelles?

  • The Wanted Poster
    • Shows how much they know about the specific organelles!

  • Presidential Campaign
    • What’s the most important organelle?
    • Shows what they know about the interrelatedness of the cells!

  • Cell City / Infographic
    • Shows what they know about all organelles & how they work together

All of these (and many more) have the ability to assess a student’s knowledge, and there’s not a multiple choice exam in sight!

Let’s pay some attention to the Cell City example!

  • Tell the students that they are to create a city made out of cell organelles
  • This allows the students to gain an understanding of the interrelatedness of the organelles

  • Rather than the exam question, “Which organelle provides energy to the cell?”
    • Have them compare the mitochondria to the power plant of the city
  • Here’s an example of a rubric, since there’s not exactly an “exam key”

What about accommodations?

Accommodations for ELL students:

  •  Print everything clearly, no cursive, no crazy fonts
  • Give instructions written and orally
  • Use lots of visuals
  • Provide translated rubric
  • Allow group work with both English speaking students and English language learners
  • Provide an example

Accommodations for ADHD students:

  • Provide a schedule for how/when to complete the assignment
  • Provide option to either work alone or with a group
  • Provide frequent checks for accuracy
  • Provide an example
  • Provide option for doing it on paper or on computer


  1. Loved your blog! I really like the cell city example of a way to assess that content. It really allows kids to be creative while also demonstrating their knowledge. It even goes to a higher level of understanding by having them make analogies. I also really like the presidential campaign example because it forces them to make a claim and support it with evidence which is crucial for science. Would you have your students do these types of assessments in class or as a take-home assignment? Again, great post!

    • Margaux,
      Thanks so much for the positive feedback! I thought hard about what type of assessments to use, because I know that I am not a good exam taker, so I don’t want to make assumptions that my students will be either. As for your question, I would probably have these assessments take place in class rather than take them home. If they did them in class, I would be there for any questions they have, I could make sure they get it done, and they could also get peer feedback on what they are doing which I believe is very important.
      Thanks again!

  2. Hello Katie!
    Where did you find these ideas or are they your own? They are awesome and I am glad that you shared them! I like using analogies in the wanted poster and the presidential campaign for the cellular organelles. I thought this was not only clever, but also was helpful in having the students remember the parts of the cell. If I were in this class, I would remember the parts of the organelle with ease after doing one of these activities. Great post! I like your accommodations as well. One of my favorite students to work with are those with ADHD because of their wonderful ideas and enthusiasm. Sure, they can get off task, but you just have to bring them back. I like the idea of letting them work alone or in a group. I respect this and believe it also works for autistic kids as well. I wrote about the autistic kids. I would, however, add that the ADHD kids may have wonderful ideas that should be encouraged and worked with. Many people with autism struggle with creativity, but do have wonderful ideas and these should be encouraged. I admit that “assessment” used to make me think of a test as well, but after that class, that changed. Do you have any accommodations for autism? I would love to hear them. I work with the autistic kids. I was also wondering how you would grade the assignments? Would you grade them as right or wrong or give points for creativity? Excellent post!

    Delaina 🙂

    • Delaina,
      Thank you for the positive feedback! I did the cell city one in high school so that’s where I got the idea! As for how I would grade these assignments, I would assess for both correctness and creativity. I would definitely give points for creativity, but I also believe that it’s important that the concepts they are doing are correct, or else it wouldn’t be beneficial for them. This is also an assessment, so correctness is crucial.
      When it comes to autism, there are multiple different accommodations that could be put into place. I would make sure to have an outline for the assignment so it’s easier for them to follow and visualize. I would also play it by ear. If a student were to come up to me with an idea that is kind of out there but still following the assignment, I would tell them to go for it!
      Thanks again!

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