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Assessment Overview

The shift from a lecture-based science lesson to one that is student-driven leaves many educators wondering: How will teachers know if their students “get it?” How can teachers assess students as they do science?  

Three images of students doing science

What kind of assessments does PhD Science include?

Our teacher–writers carefully crafted PhD Science® assessments to ensure teachers have visibility into student understanding. 

PhD Science includes formative and summative assessments. Based on student responses and teacher observation, including next steps, teachers know how to proceed with instruction. Just-in-time notes and rubrics further support teachers.

End-of-Module Assessment
One per module

Engineering or Science Challenge
One per module

Conceptual Checkpoint
One per concept

Check for Understanding
At least one per lesson

Formative and Summative Assessments


Checks for Understanding

Checks for Understanding formatively assess students at essential points as they progress toward focused learning targets. There is at least one Check for Understanding per lesson.

Check for Understanding from a Level 1 module on light


A couple Conceptual Checkpoint showing images of stingrays
A more textual Conceptual Checkpoint from PhD Science

Conceptual Checkpoint

Conceptual Checkpoints measure deep conceptual understanding of the module’s Disciplinary Core Ideas and the skills and knowledge associated with Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts. These can be used as formative or summative assessments, coming after multiple lessons and tied to a specific concept within a module. There are three to five Conceptual Checkpoints per module.


Engineering or Science Challenge

Science Challenges and Engineering Challenges allow students to apply their conceptual knowledge to solve real-world problems. There is a Science or an Engineering Challenge in each module that can be a formative or summative assessment. There are other opportunities to assess students through evidence and documentation that students capture in their Science Logbooks.

An Engineering Challenge involving Level 4 students designing a model runway

A portion of a Socratic Seminar

Socratic Seminar

The Socratic Seminar engages students in a deeper examination of the module topic, allowing them to synthesize and extend their learning through peer-to-peer discussion and debate.

For an understanding of questions that are discussed during module-level Socratic Seminars, explore the anchor phenomena and essential questions of PhD Science.


End-of-Module Assessment

The End-of-Module Assessment gives students the opportunity to demonstrate and transfer the knowledge and skills they have acquired throughout the module in the context of one or more new phenomena.

End-of-Module Assessments come at the end of every module as a summative assessment.

A page from an End-of-Module Assessment in a couple grade levels and a portion of an associated rubric

Assessment Packs and More

In addition to the blackline masters being provided or listed in the Teacher Edition, Assessment Packs are available to provide color copies for easy distribution. These packs include End-of-Module Assessments at Levels K–5 and Conceptual Checkpoints at Levels K–2.

List of resources in a PhD Science Student Science Pack