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Assessment with floorbooks

Using floorbooks to support effective teacher assessment of science

Teachers must assess children’s knowledge of science, their conceptual understanding of science processes and their practical science skills.

Children can demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in science in oral or written forms. Written work is no more valid than a discussion, debate, drama or role-play, and might be more suitable for some children. Floorbooks provide the teacher with a record of the exact words a child has said so that the teacher can reflect on what the child understands and decide what they need to do next.

Evidence of children’s practical skills (‘doing’ an experiment) can be more challenging to record. Photographs kept in a floorbook are useful to record children observing, measuring and recording during their investigations. Children’s contributions in planning their investigations, drawing conclusions and evaluating how it went can be written down by older students but perhaps not by younger children, or children whose writing skills do not match their science skills. Planning and evaluation often happen during a class discussion and ideas are developed through argumentation and debate. Including the comments made by children on sticky notes in a floorbook provides documentation of these science skills.

Thus, floorbooks can become an effective assessment tool for teachers. You can find out why & how to use floorbooks in science here.

The Teacher Assessment in Primary Science (TAPS) project, based at Bath Spa University and funded by the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT), has provided a Pyramid Model to support teachers in identifying types of formative and summative assessment.

Here are some examples of how floorbooks have supported teachers’ assessment:

  • Evidence of conceptual understanding
  • Evidence of formative assessment
  • Tracking pupils’ progress
  • Evidence of summative assessment

Evidence of conceptual understanding

Floorbooks can provide evidence of a child's conceptual understanding.

This teacher has used a visual prompt (similar to a Science Concept Cartoon®) at the beginning of a sequence of work to check conceptual understanding. Several ideas are shared with the children. The children are given time to reflect on these ideas and then write their own idea on a sticky note. If they agree with one of the speech bubbles, they must say why. Occasionally, the teacher will scribe for a poor writer and might prompt children who are struggling - this teacher records ‘S’ for support on post its where a lot of help was given.

Another teacher has used an Odd One Out activity towards the end of a sequence of work to check children's understanding of the Sun, Moon and Earth. The children have written their ideas on white boards and the teacher has chosen a few boards to photograph as evidence of the children's subject knowledge. Sometimes it is useful to photograph all of the children's work but often teachers know what most children understand and there are only a few children that the teacher needs to 'check in' with to make a reasonable assessment.

evidence of formative assessment

At the start of a topic, the teacher has asked the children to draw on their white board what they know about the heart as part of their formative assessment.

A few responses showing a range of abilities were photographed.

This simple elicitation task showed what the children knew:

  • All the children knew that the heart pumped blood around the body and it is an organ
  • A few children knew that oxygen was involved but not how
  • One child mentions veins and arteries but cannot describe the differences
  • None of the children knew about the double circulatory system

From this record, the teacher was able to plan a sequence of lessons appropriate for the class.

tracking pupils' progress

These children were asked to look closely at sugar and decide what state it was: solid, liquid or gas. Originally these girls thought that sugar was a liquid because you can pour it. After some teaching input and exploring many types of solids, they understand that sugar is a solid at room temperature and were able to draw what they thought the inside of a sugar cube looks like. The second sticky note shows that they understand that particles within a solid structure like sugar are fixed together and cannot move apart.

evidence of summative assessment

Floorbooks provide teachers with a means of making summative judgements about a child's level of achievement. By looking at a child's comments, actions and understanding, over a period of time, the whole floorbook provides valid, reliable and manageable evidence for assessment.

This teacher has assessed a ‘working scientifically’ learning objective: I can classify and present data to help answer questions. These children (age 8-9) worked in groups of 4 to identify and classify types of appliances according to whether they are mains electricity or battery powered. They recorded their work on a large piece of sugar paper. The teacher photographed the work from each group, made a little booklet and stuck this in the floorbook. Every child has contributed, and the teacher can be confident that these children can present their data in an appropriate way.

Safety Notice and Disclaimer

PSTT advises teachers to refer to either the CLEAPSS website or SSERC website for up to date health and safety information when planning practical activities for children.

PSTT is not liable for the actions or activities of any reader or anyone else who uses the information in these resource pages or the associated classroom materials. PSTT assumes no liability with regard to injuries or damage to property that may occur as a result of using the information contained in these resources. PSTT recommends that a full risk assessment is carried out before undertaking in the classroom any of the practical investigations contained in the resources.

All materials are ©Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) and are freely available to download and share for educational purposes. Whilst educators are free to adapt the resources to suit their own needs, acknowledgement of copyright on all original materials must be included. Rights to images included in the resource have been purchased for PSTT use only – as such, these images may only be used as part of this resource and may not copied into or used in other materials.