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The Best Assessment Strategy to Increase Achievement in Biology

The Best Assessment Strategy to Increase Achievement in Biology

One of my favorite models for assessing students in Biology comes from my current district. Even throughout my Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction I have not seen a better method for assessing students and holding them to a high standard.

In the assessment model that we currently use in the Science department, we allow students to complete retakes on quizzes which consists of about one chapter/topic worth of content.

There are multiple versions of each quiz  i.e version a,b,c which are all the same questions just ordered differently for quiz and exam security and authenticity purposes.

Note: Students have been known to take pictures of quizzes/tests and sell them to other students. Be vigilant. NO PHONE or DEVICES when a quiz/exam is being used.

In addition there are re-quiz versions that are  mostly different questions with the same content. If a students fails a quiz and wants to improve their grade they can. However, students must complete test corrections and tutoring one day and re-quiz the following day. (ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING)

Re-quiz  Procedures:
  • Students can only achieve up to a 90% on a re-quiz.
  • They can only re-quiz once.
  • For me, re-quizzes are slightly more difficult because I want them to know their stuff if they are going to make me put time into regrading I want them to know their stuff. I let them know they are slightly more difficult.
  • If they get a lower score they do not take the lower score but I mention that if it occurs more than once I may change that.
What can’t they redo?

After we cover a unit of study, usually 3 or 4 chapters/topics, we take a Unit Exam worth 3 about times more than a quiz grade. These are NOT able to be retaken. This is where students demonstrate what they know. (ASSESSMENT OF LEARNING)

The Unit Exams offer me the ability to say confidently that the student know their stuff if the get an A in my course which demonstrates mastery of the content.

This assessment model also holds them accountable for actually learning the content and even if they do not do well on a particular topic.

A 2-3 day review/reteaching is done prior to the exam through labs and various activities such as quizlet live and kahoot. Again, this is another opportunity for students to solidify their content knowledge or relearn areas they struggled in.

Pros and Cons
  • Students have an opportunity to improve their learning and their grade.
  • It is extremely helpful at parent conferences to have mention that re-quizzes are available to the student.
  • Increase pass rate for the state assessments.
  • Puts the pressure on the students to achieve and takes pressure off of the teacher if they do not.
  • Not all student care enough to take advantage of it.
  • Some students care too much about a single point to get to the 90% and you will have to regrade a whole quiz for one point!
  • It requires a lot of work and time up-front to create multiple versions of high quality assessments.
  • It requires a lot of regrading = more time. However, I rewrote many quizzes to use Zipgrade and it has saved tons of time.
  • Your school schedule may not easily accommodate time for tutoring and re-quizzes. We have a 30 minute study period built in.


What are your thoughts or strategies? Comment Below.

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Station Teaching

Station Teaching for Evolution:

When introducing evolution I like to use the station teaching model. I set up stations for collaboration, independent and teacher assisted or direct instruction. Each station is broken down into about 20 minute rotations and can span multiple days depending on your schedule, I am on a block schedule but have done this with traditional scheduling and it works well.

Collaborative: Students work together to examine skulls and the similarities and difference between them from an evolutionary perspective. Students will also color code homologous structures in the station.


I use any skull samples I have available.
I use any skull samples I have available.

Independent: I set up Ipads or laptops with headphones and have the students watch the by Nina Jablonski video on skin pigmentation and complete a video worksheet.

Direct or Teacher Assisted:

  • Each student will research an example of one piece of evidence for evolution.
  • Choices: fossil, anatomical, physiological, embryological, biochemical, and universal genetic code
  • Research for 10 minutes and gather information to share with the group.
  • Direct instruction where the students will use guided notes as the teacher presents an evidence-for-evolution  PowerPoint to a small group.

 Station Rotation Handout:Evolution-Stations


Evolution Video

Evolution Video on Skin Pigmentation:

This TED talk is one of my favorite to show students. It does a great job explaining how organisms evolve and how our own skin pigmentation is evidence for evolution. I use the video with this Video Worksheet to introduce evolution.


What Students Really Need To Hear

On the first day of school our student were shown a video about titled “What Students Really Need To Hear.” This may be a good video to include in your first day biology activities as a bell ringer. It is motivational video that can hopefully help encourage your students to get off to a great start.