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Designing Assessments in Physical Science Across Three Dimensions

The NGSA Physical Science project team is designing, developing, testing, and validating a set of three-dimensional assessment tasks and scoring rubrics aligned with NGSS Performance Expectations in middle school physical science.
Photo of students in Science lab

  • Our rich, technology-delivered assessments are designed for teachers to use formatively during the course of NGSS-aligned classroom instruction to help teachers gauge their students’ progress toward the end-of-grade-band performance expectations.
  • Assessment tasks include interactive features such as simulations, videos, drawing, and molecule building environments
  • The assessment tasks are delivered by an online portal that collects and organizes students’ responses for teachers
  • The task set will include accompanying rubrics and other supporting materials that will help teachers use the tasks effectively in their classroom instruction

Our set of exemplar tasks addresses five NGSS performance expectations in middle school physical science:

Matter and Its Interactions

MS-PS1-1. Develop models to describe the atomic composition of simple molecules and extended structures.

MS-PS1-2. Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred.

MS-PS1-5. Develop and use a model to describe how the total number of atoms does not change in a chemical reaction and thus mass is conserved.


MS-PS1-4. Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed.

MS-PS3-4. Plan an investigation to determine the relationships among the energy transferred, the type of matter, the mass and the change in the average kinetic energy of the particles as measured by the temperature of the sample.

The tasks incorporate the following NGSS disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts:

Disciplinary Core Ideas Science and Engineering Practices Crosscutting Concepts
  • PS1.A. Structure and Properties of Matter
  • PS1.B. Chemical Reactions
  • PS3.A. Definitions of Energy
  • PS3.B. Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer
  • Developing and Using Models
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Constructing explanations
  • Patterns
  • Cause and effect: mechanism and explanation
  • Scale, proportion, and quantity
  • Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation

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The NGSA Physical Science project is supported by the National Science Foundation award Collaborative Research: Designing Assessments in Physical Science Across Three Dimensions (DRL-1316874, -1316903, -1316908; 2013-2017).