Performance Assessment Links in Science (PALS) is a resource library of science performance assessment tasks that are linked to the National Science Education Standards (NSES). The tasks include instructions for teachers, directions for students, assessment rubrics, examples of students' work, and most tasks display score distributions from actual test results. The Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International developed PALS as a Web-based approach for sharing exemplary assessment resources, collaborating on the development of new ones, and understanding how the use of standards-based performance assessment can advance science education reform at all levels of the educational system.
PALS provides quality science tasks for K-12 teachers. This site can assist teachers in identifying and evaluating lessons that help students achieve the science concepts and processes listed in the National Science Education Standards. The PALS resource library includes performance assessment tasks from multiple sources, such as state assessment programs and consortia and national reference exams (NAEP, TIMSS, State and National Standards-based items), and is intended for use by teachers and professional development organizations. A second password-protected tier is intended to be a secure Accountability Pool of science performance assessments for use by state assessment programs and systemic reform programs (e.g., Systemic Initiatives). All PALS Tasks contain scientific inquiry.
Target Student Population:
The PALS website provides science assessment tasks for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Type of Material:
Reference/Resource Materials. Quiz/Test
The use of standards-based performance assessment is important for the advancement of science education reform at all levels of the educational system. This website could provide quality lessons for classroom and science teachers. Preservice teachers could use the tasks as models for developing performance assessment lessons.
No special technical requirements.
Evaluation and Observation
The PALS resource was developed using a systematic process for collecting, formatting, and posting the assessment task components (administration procedures, student booklet, scoring rubrics, scored student work, and technical quality information), using tasks contributed and posted by organizations such as the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO/SCASS), the New York Department of Education (NYDOE), RAND, and Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS). Science tasks were included that had been developed according to a systematic test development process, including content and sensitivity reviews; field tested with at least 100 students; reported score distributions; and had established acceptable levels of interrater reliability. The assessments are indexed to the National Science Education Standards (NSES). Each task has a common format for assessment of a National Science Education Standard. In addition, to insure quality each task includes information of their testing population.
This site plans to continuously build the database of assessment tasks. Currently, there are National Science Education Standard areas with no matching tasks. The validity of some of the assessments as a measure of the assigned Science Standard is doubtful, and no data supports the content validity of the items. We agree with the report by the SRI assessment team finding that an over-abundance of performance assessment tasks address concepts from the physical sciences, with a poorer representation of tasks in the areas of Life and Earth/Space science. We encourage the PALS project team to continue to seek out field-tested investigations for under-represented NSES standards. PALS can provide a wake-up call if quality science performance tasks are not being developed for a number of the NSES.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
This site could be used in a variety of ways. The tasks could be used by classroom teachers as a source for ideas about teaching and assessing standards-based science. Higher education faculty could use the tasks as examples and models for a standards-based lesson, lesson format, rubrics, or to survey testing results for population samples. References in the form of publications and papers presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association are posted on the PALS Web. Users provide PALS task ratings, with a comment feature that is outstanding. In response to the question, "How likely are you to use this task?" the average rating of forty-six users on a scale of 1(low) to 4(high) was 3.2. Their average rating on the question "how likely are you to adapt this task?" was 3.5. Users submit comments about the specific task, the usefulness of the rubrics, examples of student work, and how easy it was to incorporate or adapt the tasks for their existing curriculum. PALS serves as an outstanding teacher education tool that can also serve as a well organized source for the National Science Education Standards (NSES).
The qualifications of those who respond to the task ratings providing the average rating of 3.2 for "How likely are you to use this task?" and an average rating of 3.5 for "how likely are you to adapt this task?" have not been established. It is not clear whether the star ratings for each task represent the user?s impression of the validity of the task for assessing the specific NSES or whether the stars simply show that more teachers would use the task.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Flexibility and ease of PALS resource navigation is outstanding. Performance tasks,
categorized by grade level, can be selected by NSES, or by discipline. Administration guidelines, task, rubric, sample student work, and technical information are easy to access for each task. Each task is clearly categorized according to multiple National Science Education Standards categories using tabs on the task home page. Navigation to any other screen from within a task is possible. A search tool at the bottom of each page works well. Users can search for PALS tasks relevant to curriculum modules if the program framework has been posted on the Web site. The architecture allows dynamic generation of assessment charts to support assessment planning by displaying the PALS tasks indexed to science standards selected by the user and also to Full Option Science System (FOSS) and Science and Technology for Children (STC). Ease of use was supported by the explicit tour that was accessed from the main page of the website, although one reviewer who skipped the tour had no trouble navigating the resources. This site would be easy for in-service and preservice teachers to navigate. All the linked areas for the tasks were labeled clearly and easy to follow.
Links to the Curriculum frameworks (FOSS and STC) are somewhat hidden at the bottom of the Standards home page.
Other Issues and Comments:
PALS displays exemplary technical architecture for a relational database. The results show what happens when designers conduct studies with individual users who inform the design and redesign of the interface. In addition to the core functions for supporting task selection and site navigation, features including threaded discussion boards, personalized assessment charts (My Chart), user ratings and discussion of individual tasks,
and searching by some state science standards and curriculum frameworks make PALS a Web site that offers far more functions and features than other assessment Web sites.The feedback form provided on each task's main page could be helpful to the evaluation process for the PALS Steering Committee, providing another exemplary use of the Web. To provide a model to other Web developers, however, it would be useful to know what procedures are used to confirm the validity of the comments submitted.