First Advisor

William Becker

Date of Publication

Fall 1-8-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Teaching (M.S.T.) in General Science


Science Teaching




Science -- Study and teaching (Elementary) -- Case studies, Educational evaluation, Reflective teaching



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 105 pages)


Formative assessment probes, known as Keeley probes, are one tool teachers use to reveal students' scientific misconceptions, so that they can move them closer to conceptual understanding. The purpose of this research was to document how four elementary school teachers used formative assessment probes to plan and adapt instruction to improve student learning. Specifically:

  • How did teachers choose appropriate probes? What learning goals did teachers hope to address by using the probe??
  • What instructional sequences did teachers envision when planning to use a probe?
  • What did teachers notice when analyzing student data from a probe?
  • How did teachers use the information to modify their instructional practice?

This exploratory study addresses key issues by exploring through qualitative methods how four elementary teachers used Keeley formative assessment probes in the classroom through a series of individual and group interviews. The results, reported as case studies and themes, indicate that Keeley probes may be used to help teachers strengthen their pedagogical content knowledge and as an anchor for classroom discussions. Teachers reported that students were highly engaged when considering Keeley probing questions. Teachers in this study had questions about how to analyze data collected through formative assessment, and what instructional steps they needed to take to address misconceptions.

The central finding of the study is that a teacher's subject-area knowledge as well as the ability to identify students' misconceptions and make instructional decisions based on those ideas, both elements of pedagogical content knowledge, play a key role in how effectively teachers use Keeley formative assessment probes towards improving learning.

Ultimately, this study showed that while the use of Keeley probes did improve opportunities for students to deepen scientific understanding, a gap still exists between the potential of formative assessment and the practical work of integrating ongoing formative assessment to improve teaching and learning.

This exploratory study underlines the need for a new approach in professional development for elementary science teachers, and sheds light on what happens when teachers try Keeley probes, a promising formative assessment tool and strategy, in the real world of the classroom.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Persistent Identifier