Assessment in SEPUP

SEPUP materials provide a research-based assessment system developed in cooperation with the University of California Graduate School of Education. The assessment system provides rubrics (called scoring guides). Student responses to questions already embedded in the student material can be scored using these scoring guides.

Teachers familiar with “holistic scoring” will notice similarities between the use of rubrics and the SEPUP scoring guides. The scoring guides have been developed so that an individual scoring guide can be used for all of the assessments relating to a particular skill throughout the entire course.

What do the scoring guides assess?
How do I use the scoring guides? (with video)
Can you show me an example?
How do I know when to score students?
How do I grade student answers?

What do the scoring guides assess?

There are several different scoring guides (similar to rubrics) that can be used to assess students. Each scoring guide focuses on a different skill. SEPUP has developed scoring guides to assess students on their ability to:

  • design and conduct an investigation
  • analyze data
  • understand concepts
  • evaluate evidence and identify tradeoffs
  • communicate scientific information
  • work cooperatively in a group

How do I use the scoring guides?

There are five possible levels, from 0–4, on each scoring guide. Each level indicates a quality of response, as shown in the table below. A score level of 4 is considered an advanced response because it goes beyond being complete and correct in some significant way, such as providing additional analysis or information.

Level on a
SEPUP scoring guide
Student response
4Complete, correct, and beyond
3Complete and correct
2Partially correct and/or incomplete
0Off task or not attempted

See video of class discussion on scoring a student paper
(6.3 MB). This video footage was produced by Lily Roberts, Mike Sipusic and the Berkeley Assessment and Research Evaluation Center (BEAR).

To receive a particular score level, a response must fulfill all the requirements of the lower levels in addition to the requirements of the higher score. For example, even if only one aspect of a response is incorrect or incomplete, a student should not receive a level 3 score. For most students, achieving consistent level 3 responses would be an indicator of academic success. This is why the standards for each level should be kept consistent. By maintaining the integrity of scoring, teachers can help high-performing students (as well as lower-achieving students) improve the quality of their work.

Can you show me an example?

In the first few activities of Science and Life Issues, students examine scientific approaches to investigating problems. In Activity 2, “The Pellagra Story,” students watch a video segment on the work of Dr. Joseph Goldberger, a scientist of the early 1900s. He was asked to investigate the cause of pellagra, a disease affecting thousands of people in the U.S. His investigations led him to conclude that pellagra was not an infectious or genetic disease, but a nutritional deficiency. The student book poses the following question.

Compare the steps of the traditional scientific method to the steps Dr. Goldberger followed to investigate pellagra. How were the steps the same? How were the steps different?

This question is identified as an assessment that can be scored using the Understanding Concepts scoring guide. A sample level 3 response is provided below:

The traditional scientific method begins by stating a problem. Dr. Goldberger was presented with a problem when he was asked to investigate pellagra and its causes. The next step of the traditional scientific method is to form a hypothesis. Dr. Goldberger hypothesized that an inadequate diet was the cause of pellagra. The next step is doing the experiment, which Dr. Goldberger did when he fed the orphans a balanced diet and cured their pellagra.

In the traditional scientific method, the next step is recording and analyzing data. Dr. Goldberger recorded and analyzed data when he examined the results of his experiment. The way in which Dr. Goldberger’s work differed from the traditional scientific method was that he did not form a conclusion immediately after his first experiment with the orphans. Dr. Goldberger decided to obtain more evidence through experiments on prisoners. Only then did he conclude that his hypothesis was correct.

After reading this response, you may feel that your students are not ready to produce such a complete response. Helping students develop the skills to write this type of a response is an overarching purpose of the SEPUP assessment system. You may begin the school year by sharing this “ideal” response with students, and help them revise their work until it is at a level 3. Since they will continue to be assessed on these types of questions, they can continue to build their skills over the course of the school year.

How do I know when to score a student response?

Written responses that are appropriate for scoring are identified by icons in the Teacher’s Guide and contain a complete and correct sample response. For example, an Analysis Question may be marked with a small box containing the abbreviation “ET.” This indicates that this question can be assessed with the Using Evidence to Make Tradeoffs scoring guide. In addition, questions that can be assessed are usually identified in the introductory material of the Teacher’s Guide and in an appendix on assessment.

Opportunities for teachers to assess student performance (as opposed to written materials) are identified in the Teacher’s Guide entry for each activity, as well as in the introductory material of the Teacher’s Guide.

How do I grade student answers?

The scores that students receive using the scoring guides are not equivalent to grades. Most students are not likely to achieve many level 3 or level 4 scores at the beginning of the school year. Teachers using the SEPUP assessment system have decided on various methods for translating student performance into grades.

One method is to use to students’ scores over a grading period to create a grading scale. For example, the total number of assessed assignments may be ten. If a student received a level 3 (complete and correct) on each assignment, the total number of points would be 30. Early in the school year, the majority of students may be receiving a level 2 or lower. A student who received a total of 18 (perhaps 8 of 10 assignments achieved a score level of 2) may be assigned a “B.” The number of points required to earn a “B” may change over the school year as student performance improves.

Another method is to declare in advance that students earn a certain number of scores at a particular score level to achieve a certain grade. For example, if you plan to assess ten assignments during an early grading period, you may require students to achieve a score level of 3 on at least five of the assignments in order to receive an “A.” This number should change as the school year progresses and students are expected to produce an increasing proportion of level 3 responses.

Some teachers count a score more than once if the assignment is considered a more important assessment than previous assessments. Other teachers translate scores into their own point system, which may or may not be based on the traditional 100 point system. You may find yourself experimenting with more than one approach until you find the one that works best for you and your student population.