Learning Exercise

Assessment and the Science Education Reform Documents

It has been said that if you show what is assessed, then you'll know what is really taught. The Pew Trusts Education White Paper gives the following example. "Suppose educators could agree on a few simple features that define a meaningful education: for example, that students should be required to write a great deal in the course of their studies. (Note that I'm not even saying they should write well, simply that they should have lots of practice.) Now suppose that all of the various external constituencies -- students, parents, governments, accrediting agencies and professional societies -- asked the same question, 'How much writing goes on during the course of the typical classroom experience?' If this happened, very soon, I suspect, students would be doing a lot of writing." (from http://www.pewtrusts.com/Programs/edu/edwp3.cfm#ch5) This assignment for science teachers is built upon the presumption that if we delve a little deeper into the what each of the four science standards documents require teachers to assess, we will discover what each document views as most important to teach in science. The assignment involves comparing and contrasting our state and the national science standards regarding the approach each takes toward assessment. Upon completion of this assignment, teachers have a deeper understanding of whether there is consensus among the constituencies behind each of these documents.
Course: SCED 550: Theoretical Designs in Science Education
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Exercise

 

Title:
Assessment and the Science Education Reform Documents









Assignment
Goals


It has been said
that if you show what is assessed, then you'll know what is really taught.
The Pew Trusts Education White Paper gives the following example. "Suppose
educators could agree on a few simple features that define a meaningful
education: for example, that students should be required to write a great
deal in the course of their studies. (Note that I'm not even saying they
should write well, simply that they should have lots of practice.) Now
suppose that all of the various external constituencies -- students, parents,
governments, accrediting agencies and professional societies -- asked the
same question, 'How much writing goes on during the course of the typical
classroom experience?' If this happened, very soon, I suspect, students
would be doing a lot of writing." (from http://www.pewtrusts.com/Programs/edu/edwp3.cfm#ch5)

Your task for this
assignment isto delve a little deeper into the implications for each of
the four standards documents, to use their recommendations for assessment
to discover what each document views as most important to teach in science.
Compare and contrast the state and national science standards regarding
the approach each takes toward assessment. Upon completion of this assignment,
you will have a deeper understanding of whether there is consensus among
the constituencies behind each of these documents.


 









Source
Material


EACH of the four
science education reform documents is hyperlinked both in CPR under Resources
and on our SCED550 course syllabus. Some may prefer to use a book with
index, while others prefer to search the on-line documents for keywords
using the Edit -> Find function.


 










































Source
Material Resources: 
CA
Science Framework


URL: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/science.html
National
Science Education Standards (NSES)
 

URL: http://books.nap.edu/catalog/4962.html
Benchmarks
for Scientific Literacy
 

URL: http://www.project2061.org/tools/benchol/bolframe.htm
Science
for All Americans (SFAA)
  

URL: http://www.project2061.org/tools/sfaaol/Intro.htm











Guiding
Questions


In what contexts
are the terms "assess" and "evaluate" used in each document? Summarize
your understanding of the difference between assessment and evaluation
based on reports in these documents.

What agreement
and what conflicts confront teachers who attempt to follow the assessment
guidelines from all of the documents?

Can society expect
a science teacher to assess in accordance with all of the reform documents?

What research is
needed to help teachers decide among conflicting assessment guidelines
on behalf of their students? Identify burning questions.


 









Writing
Prompt


Trace the role
of assessment and evaluation in each of the science education reform documents.
What distinction is made between assessment and evaluation?

What is assessed?
inquiry? laboratory activity? process skills?

What role does
authentic assessment play in learning science?

Use page numbers
and the following symbols to reference your sources:



  • CA: California
    Department of Education, (July, 2000). California Science Framework for
    K-12 Public Schools (DRAFT), California Department of Education: Sacramento,
    CA.



  • NSES: National
    Research Council, (1996). National Science Education Standard, National
    Academy Press: Washington, D.C.



  • Benchmarks:
    Project 2061 American Association for the Advancement of Science, (1993).
    Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy Oxford University Press: New York.



  • SFAA: Rutherford,
    F. J. (1990). Science for All Americans, Oxford University Press: New York.


Write your essay using
a word processor to take advantage of the spell check/grammar and word
count functions.


Typical good student response

The four primary science reform documents vary greatly concerning assessment of science education. The California Public School Framework K-12 Draft (CA) views assessment in terms of ?do they know the content? (p. 281) as determined by the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) System. Chapter Four, entitled ?Assessment of Student Learning? does provide several strategies and levels of evaluation for the classroom teacher, including objective tests, labs, oral presentations, portfolios, and alternative assessments. Process skills and inquiry are discouraged; teachers are to "avoid lengthy projects and assessments that result in inefficient use of instructional time" (p. 286). The expressed ?first priority is improve student achievement as measured by world-class standards-based tests" (p. 12). In California, students must know the content; that is the measure of success for teachers and students.



In contrast to the CA document, the National Science Education Standards (NSES) offers ?essential characteristics of exemplary assessment practices? (p. 75). A list of student evaluation methods is provided, including all the CA methods, as well as interviews and informal observations (p.77), student interest in the content (p.87), and student critiques of their own work and the work of other students in constructive ways (p.88). "Assessing the ability to inquire" (p. 98) includes reasoning, use of lab equipment, and understanding the processes of science. Yet assessment in NSES is much more than student outcomes. Chapter five, ?Assessment in Science Education,? addresses assessment in terms of general ?standards that can be applied to students, teachers, and programs.? Assessment standards provide broad guidelinesto evaluate ?progress toward the science education vision of scientific literacy for all? (p.75). Science literacy for the student, and the nation, is the measure of success.



The two Project 2061 reform documents are more concerned with attitudes and conceptual understanding rather than specific assessment criteria. Science For All Americans (SFAA) refers to ?habits of mind? (values, attitudes, and skills) as the outcome of a scientifically literate person (p. 183). SFAA is a handbook describing what every American should know about science, and not about strategies for instruction or methods of evaluation. ?Assessment,? as a word, is not used in the document. It is the process of learning and its personal and social rewards that is the measure of success.



Benchmarks for Science Literacy describes what students should know by the end of 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 12th grade, but not strategies for assessment. The introduction plainly states, ?Benchmarks sheds only partial light on how to achieve these goals, and the means for achieving the ends will be discussed in other Project 2061 materials (p. XIII). Success? We?re working deliberately toward 2061!



There is an urgent need for consensus among scientists, educators, and politicians about assessment in science education. Perhaps this is where success for our students will begin.



Typical struggling student response

Education has no higher purpose than preparing people to lead personally fulfilling lives. Science education should help students develop the understandings and habits of the mind in order to think for themselves and face life head on (SFAA, xiii). Therefore, when students engage in assessments, they should learn from assessments (NSES, 6). The four standards have recommendations for assessment with regards to what each views as most important to teach in science. The NSES feels that a higher order of thinking is required, which probably refers to Bloom'staxonomy. Their recommendation is that rather than checking whether students have memorized information, new assessments look for a students understanding, reasoning, and use of the knowledge acquired (NSES, 6). The SFAA looks at science, mathematics, and technology as to what is important for a science knowledge base (SFAA, xv). This is taught through problem solving. Benchmarks stands behind comprehensive and long-term retention for all students, all grade levels, and all subjects (AAAS, 6). The decision of what content should be covered is left up to the teacher. The California standards calls for a high level of science literacy that can be achieved through the standards through all grade levels. All standards should be taught in k-8 and grades 9-12 should cover all the corresponding courses through integrated and coordinated courses (CA, 3).



All the documents use assessment to reform the teaching of science. Each of the four science reform documents approach the assessment in different ways. The NSES looks at comprehensive testing by essays, interviews, test, etc. (NSES, 6). Further analysis of the data is used as a teaching guide (NSES, 38). SFAA looks at studies done by other agencies and does not fully address their approach to assessment. The AAAS approach is to look at in class assessment during instruction (Ch. 16). CA looks to standardize testing known as STAR to evaluate student's assessment.



The reform documents address inquiry with more detail than assessment. The inquiry discussion is not to different from the approach to assessment that each document makes, with the exception of AAAS. The NSES contends that the student and teacher are the focus and assessment is made through observation, questions, experimentation, prediction, etc. This point of view is not much diifferent from the firm and direct approach to assessment made by the CA standards. The SFAA also confirms that the teacher and student are reliable for asessment.



The reform documents discussed here have varying degrees and methods to their approach of assessment in science for students. The CA and NSES have a strong approach to assessment and define it clearly and at length in their documents. They state that the standards are the best measure for analyzing assessment (NSES, 5). Contrary, the AAAS and SFAA do not go in to detail about assessment. They do not make the issue seem unimportant; they just do not give their documents much emphasis to assessment.

Additional Information: http://cpr.molsci.ucla.edu

Technical Notes

Prior to writing an essay to define conflicts among the science assessment guidelines, the class is divided into groups to investigate one of four science standards documents: (i) California Science Framework for K-12 Public Schools - California Department of Education (July, 2000) California Department of Education: Sacramento, CA. (ii) National Science Education Standards - National Research Council, (1996). National Academy Press: Washington, D.C. (iii) Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy - Project 2061 American Association for the Advancement of Science, (1993). Oxford University Press: New York. (iv) Science for All Americans - Rutherford, F. J. (1990). Oxford University Press: New York. They are guided through the process of using the Find -> search functions to scan each document for key words of interest. Each groups decribes what their document states about science assessment. The essay then provides the opportunity for each students to integrate what they know about the four documents and to define their own position about what should be assessed in science in relation to the conflicts among the science standards documents.

Requirements

All students who complete this assignment are practicing science teachers who are familiar with connections between the programs they teach and the science standards.

Topics

Science assessment, authentic assessment, standards

Learning Objectives

Students define the differences between the terms "assess" and "evaluate."

Students describe points of agreement and conflicts that teachers who attempt to follow the assessment guidelines from all of the documents confront.

Burning questions that demand new research evidence to help teachers decide among conflicting assessment guidelines on behalf of their students are identified.