Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Curriculum Design for Secondary School Science. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds Traditional assessment of understanding is with a written summative assessment, a test, but then what? If after marking the assessment you find the students haven’t understood the topic, there are major misunderstandings, or lack of application– do you still move on to the next topic? If there is fixed length of teaching time allocated to topics, then problems may arise. How might you design flexibility within your curriculum? Some students achieve competences or a deeper understanding of a topic quicker than others. Also, there may be key learning outcomes for a unit or topic, and “nice to have” parts, which can be used to extend or embed learning further.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 seconds One approach is to consider how well a curriculum plan links prior learning and misconceptions at the start. The Best Evidence Science Teaching resources, developed by the University of York Science Education Group, provide one example of using misconceptions and formative assessments to see how students are doing at the start and during a topic.

Best Evidence Science Teaching

In the steps so far this week, we’ve considered the place of formative assessment, but teachers also need to plan how to respond to the evidence of learning that assessment elicits. Part of this planning involves identifying likely misconceptions and ways to address them.

Produced by the University of York Science Education Group, Best Evidence Science Teaching (BEST) is a superb set of resources that is topic based, and which can be used within any science curriculum.

These simple tools help diagnose misconceptions and then suggests activities which can be used to help students address their misunderstanding. The material is also useful in teacher training and for non-specialists, as the questions can help identify misconceptions that might be held by teachers as well. A key document which is worth reading before using the materials with a class is the overview: Introduction to resources.

Included in the resources are:

  • Subject maps which sequence the order key concepts to build understanding of the Big Ideas of Science. These are highly useful in shaping an effective curriculum and deciding on a teaching order for each topic.
  • A summary of the learning progression from age 5 to 16 for each ‘Big Idea’.
  • Teachers notes for each ‘key concept’ describing the underlying research evidence on common misunderstandings that can prevent progression in science.


Share the BEST resources with a colleague in your department and discuss how you might develop an approach to using diagnostic questions.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Curriculum Design for Secondary School Science

National STEM Learning Centre

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: