Session 6 at a Glance

Session 6 focuses on cognitive interviewing as a formative assessment strategy that is conducted between a teacher and one student to elicit students’ thinking. The teacher interviews one student at a time with a set of probing questions that uncovers conceptual understanding. Key elements to consider in developing and using cognitive interviewing with a formative assessment are: the questions are open ended, you are not assessing whether the student answers are right or wrong, it is not a time to correct student thinking (it is a time for noticing, not for teaching) and provides an opportunity to listen to students’ thinking to collect data. Teachers will have time during the session to practice thinking like a student.

Session objectives

In session 6 teachers will:

  • Strengthen the ability to plan for learning about student’s chemical thinking using formative assessments that elicit students’ ideas, particularly focusing on the nature of questions.
  • Increase their ability to notice how students use chemistry knowledge to make sense of problems that chemistry allows us to address.
  • Discuss and explore dilemmas that arise in teaching as practices change and brainstorm how to grow as an educator in the context of existing realities.

Participant Agenda

  1. Discussion: Check in & Overview of session
  2. Whole group: Cognitive Interviewing Overview
  3. Pairs/small group: Cognitive interviewing experience (practice)
  4. Whole group: Debrief discussion
  5. Wrap up & Homework


Full download (zipped folder)


Cognitive interview video

Chemical Thinking GoKart Interview


ACCT Program Components focused on in this session


Chemical Thinking Thread: Benefits, Costs, Risks


Formative Assessment Enactment ModelEliciting


Teacher Dilemmas: Pedagogical Dilemma

Tips for the facilitator

A major goal of this session is to strengthen teachers’ listening and help them become more open to purely eliciting their students’ thinking without saying or demonstrating any evaluation of the student's thinking. Focus teachers’ attention on ways of asking questions that give space for students to talk about how they think, and on restraining the impulse to advance students’ thinking.

The other major goal of this session is to give teachers opportunities to look for students’ benefits-costs-risks (BCR) thinking. BCR thinking involves making decisions that consider the social, health, environmental, economic, and political implications of generating and using chemical products. Intuitive BCR thinking often involves dichotomous decision making that assigns “good” or “bad” in an affective heuristic. This affective approach can rely on emotions (e.g., feelings of safe or unsafe), subjective judgments (e.g., familiar or unfamiliar appearance), or preferences (e.g., natural or artificial, “organic” or “commercially processed”, good or bad uses and purposes) that can be based on personal values and influenced by a sense of belonging to a group that shares those values. Other ways of thinking that students build in learning chemistry involve different chemical knowledge and models and require considering energetics and interactions. Signals that teachers can pay attention to in how students talk about BCR include the physical proximity (self/family, community, world) and timeframes (now, within lifetime, several generations) of consequences being considered, whether more than two options are being considered, what kinds of models students are relying on (if they are), what connected issues students consider relevant, whether “expert” views are referenced, if circumstance-based probabilities are considered, if students propose experiments needed to learn more in order to make decisions, and the extent to which weighing alternatives is considered.