A2L Project Website

This project hasn’t been funded in well over a decade, and the UMass Physics Education Research Group has since disbanded. As a public service, Ian Beatty is maintaining this database on his personal hosting account. Inexorable infrastructure upgrades by the hosting company eventually broke the site, so in June 2020 he rapidly ported it over to WordPress. The content is all here, though the formatting and search functionality are less than ideal, and some of the explanatory text is a bit dated. Maybe someday we can give this database a bit more love…

Assessing-to-Learn (A2L) was a four-year research project on the use of “continuous formative assessment” in the high-school physics classroom, funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (grant IMD-9730438). We have been developing a set of research-based pedagogic practices at the university level for many years, and A2L studied how these practices can be employed for high school physics instruction.

This website provides public access to a large library of “items” — questions and problems for instructional classroom use — intended for use with continuous formative assessment. Many of these were carefully developed and tested for high school use as part of the project; others are ones we’ve used in university-level courses. You can find the items in the Items Library. Many have associated “teacher aids”, written to help instructors make effective use of them in the classroom.

This site also provides papers that explain the pedagogic philosophy behind the approach and describe how continuous formative assessment can be implemented in the classroom. See About A2L for more.

While it is possible to use many of the A2L items as a “quiz” or “ConcepTest” (cf. Eric Mazur, Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual, the intent behind the items is very different. They are designed to reveal what students do not know, rather than what they do know. This is the essence of formative assessment. For most effective use, items should be used in a low stakes environment where students are willing to explain their thinking and reasoning. The Using Items page describes how to do this effectively.