The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12


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Start on. Show related SlideShares at end. WordPress Shortcode. Published in: Education. Full Name Comment goes here. Are you sure you want to Yes No. Be the first to like this. No Downloads. Views Total views. Actions Shares. Embeds 0 No embeds. However, as emphasized in the above discussion, there is great potential for formative assessment to assist and improve learning, and some studies, such as the ThinkerTools study described in Box 6—3 , have shown that students initially classified as less able show the largest learning gains.

There is some indication from other studies that the finding of greater gains for less able students may be generalizable, and this is certainly an area to be further explored. Another possible source of bias may arise when students do not understand or accept learning goals. In such a case, responses that should provide the basis for formative assessment may not be meaningful or forthcoming. The literature reviews on mastery learning by Block and Burns , Guskey and Gates , and Kulik, Kulik, and Bangert-Drowns confirm evidence of extra learning gains for the less able, gains that have been associated with the feedback enhancement in such regimes.

However, Livingston and Gentile have cast doubt on this attribution. Fuchs and Fuchs report that studies with children with learning handicaps showed mean gain effect sizes of 0. This potential consequence argues for helping learners understand and share learning goals. We have described ways in which classroom assessment can be used to improve instruction and learning.


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We now turn to a discussion of assessments that are used in large-scale contexts, primarily for policy purposes. They include state, national, and international assessments. At the district level, such assessments may be used for those same purposes, as well as for matching students to appropriate instructional programs. At the classroom level, large-scale assessments tend to be less relevant but still provide information a teacher can use to evaluate his or her own instruction and to identify or confirm areas of instructional need for individual students.


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Though further removed from day-to-day instruction than classroom assessments, large-scale assessments have the potential to support instruction and learning if well designed and appropriately used. Substantially more valid and useful information could be gained from large-scale assessments if the principles set forth in Chapter 5 were applied during the design process. However, fully capitalizing on the new foundations described in this report will require more substantial changes in the way large-scale assessment is approached, as well as relaxation of some of the constraints that currently drive large-scale assessment practices.

As described in Chapter 5 , large-scale summative assessments should focus on the most critical and central aspects of learning in a domain as identified by curriculum standards and informed by cognitive research and theory. Large-scale assessments typically will reflect aspects of the model of learning at a less detailed level than classroom assessments, which can go into more depth because they focus on a smaller slice of curriculum and instruction. For instance, one might need to know for summative purposes whether a student has mastered the more complex aspects of multicolumn subtraction, including borrowing from and across zero, rather than exactly which subtraction bugs lead to mistakes.

At the same time, while policy makers and parents may not need all the diagnostic detail that would be. Research on cognition and learning suggests a broad range of competencies that should be assessed when measuring student achievement, many of which are essentially untapped by current assessments. Examples are knowledge organization, problem representation, strategy use, metacognition, and kinds of participation in activity e.

Furthermore, large-scale assessments should provide information about the nature of student understanding, rather than simply ranking students according to general proficiency estimates. A major problem is that only limited improvements in large-scale assessments are possible under current constraints and typical standardized testing scenarios. Returning to issues of constraints and trade-offs discussed earlier in this chapter, large-scale assessments are designed to serve certain purposes under constraints that often include providing reliable and comparable scores for individuals as well as groups; sampling a broad set of curriculum standards within a limited testing time per student; and offering cost-efficiency in terms of development, scoring, and administration.

Tasks are generally of the kind that can be presented in paper-and-pencil format, that students can respond to quickly, and that can be scored reliably and efficiently. In general, competencies that lend themselves to being assessed in these ways are tapped, while aspects of learning that cannot be observed under such constrained conditions are not addressed.

To design new kinds of situations for capturing the complexity of cognition and learning will require examining the assumptions and values that currently drive assessment design choices and breaking out of the current paradigm to explore alternative approaches to large-scale assessment.

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To derive real benefits from the merger of cognitive and measurement theory in large-scale assessment requires finding ways to cover a broad range of competencies and to capture rich information about the nature of student understanding. This is true even if the information produced is at a coarse-grained as opposed to a highly detailed level. To address these challenges it is useful to think about the constraints and trade-offs associated. The tasks on any particular assessment are supposed to be a representative sample of the knowledge and skills encompassed by the larger content domain.

If the domain to be sampled is very broad, which is usually the case with large-scale assessments designed to cover a large period of instruction, representing the domain may require a large number and variety of assessment tasks. Most large-scale test developers opt for having many tasks that can be responded to quickly and that sample broadly. This approach limits the sorts of competencies that can be assessed, and such measures tend to cover only superficially the kinds of knowledge and skills students are supposed to be learning.

Thus there is a need for testing situations that enable the collection of more extensive evidence of student performance. If the primary purpose of the assessment is program evaluation, the constraint of having to produce reliable individual student scores can be relaxed, and population sampling can be useful. Student work or scores on classroom assessments can be used to supplement the information collected from an on-demand assessment to obtain a more comprehensive sampling of student performance.


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Although rarely used today for large-scale assessment purposes, curriculum-embedded tasks can serve policy and other external purposes of assessment if the tasks are centrally determined to some degree, with some flexibility built in for schools, teachers, and students to decide which tasks to use and when to have students respond to them. Curriculum-embedded assessment approaches afford additional benefits.

In on-demand testing situations, students are administered tasks that are targeted to their grade levels but not otherwise connected to their personal educational experiences. It is this relatively low degree of contextualization that renders these data good for some inferences, but not as good for others Mislevy, If the purpose of assessment is to draw inferences about whether students can solve problems using knowledge and experiences they have learned in class, an on-demand testing situation in which every student receives a test with no consideration of his or her personal instruction history can be unfair.

In this case, to provide valuable evidence of learning, the assessment must tap what the student has had the opportunity to learn NRC, b. In contrast to on-demand assessment, embedded.

The Science Quest: Using Inquiry/Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12

Curriculum-embedded assessment offers an alternative to on-demand testing for cases in which there is a need for correspondence among the curriculum, assessment, and actual instruction see the related discussion of conditional versus unconditional inferences at the end of Chapter 5. The following examples illustrate some cases in which these kinds of alternative approaches are being used successfully to evaluate individuals and programs in large-scale contexts. Instead they were selected to illustrate some alternative ways of approaching large-scale assessment and the trade-offs entailed.

The first two examples show how population sampling has been used for program evaluation at the national and state levels to enable coverage of a broader range of learning goals than would be possible if each student were to take the same form of a test.

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The third and fourth examples involve approaches to measuring individual attainment that draw evidence of student performance from the course of instruction. As described earlier in this chapter, NAEP is a national survey intended to provide policy makers and the public with information about the academic achievement of students across the nation.

It serves as one source of information for policy makers, school administrators, and the public for evaluating the quality of their curriculum and instructional programs. NAEP is a unique case of program evaluation in that it is not tied to any specific curriculum. It is based on a set of assessment frameworks that describe the knowledge and skills to be assessed in each subject area. The performances assessed are intended to represent the leading edge of what all students should be learning. Thus the frameworks are broader than any particular curriculum NRC, a.

The challenge for NAEP is to assess the breadth of learning goals that are valued across the nation. The program approaches this challenge through the complex matrix sampling design described earlier. Recent evaluations of NAEP National Academy of Education, ; NRC, a emphasize that the current survey does not adequately capitalize on advances in our understanding of how people learn particular subject matter.

These study. The National Academy of Education panel recommended that particular attention be given to such aspects of student cognition as problem representation, the use of strategies and self-regulatory skills, and the formulation of explanations and interpretations, contending that consideration of these aspects of student achievement is necessary for NAEP to provide a complete and accurate assessment of achievement in a subject area. The subsequent review of NAEP by the NRC reiterated those recommendations and added that large-scale survey instruments alone cannot reflect the scope of these more comprehensive goals for schooling.

The NRC proposed that, in addition to the current assessment blocks, which are limited to minute sessions and paper-and-pencil responses, NAEP should include carefully designed, targeted assessments administered to smaller samples of students that could provide in-depth descriptive information about more complex activities that occur over longer periods of time. For instance, smaller data collections could involve observations of students solving problems in groups or performing extended science projects, as well as analysis of writing portfolios compiled by students over a year of instruction.

Thus NAEP illustrates how relaxing the constraint of having to provide individual student scores opens up possibilities for population sampling and coverage of a much broader domain of cognitive performances. The next example is another illustration of what can be gained by such a sampling approach. Maryland is one of the few states in the country that has decided to optimize the use of assessment for program evaluation, forgoing individual student scores.

MSPAP consists of criterion-referenced performance tests in reading, mathematics, writing, language usage, science, and social studies for students in grades 3, 5, and 8.

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The assessment is designed to measure a broad range of competencies. Tasks require students to respond to questions or directions that lead to a solution for a problem, a recommendation or decision, or an explanation or rationale for their responses. Some tasks assess one content. A few MSPAP items are released each year to educators and the public to provide a picture of what the assessment looks like and how it is scored. To cover this broad range of learning outcomes, Maryland uses a sampling approach whereby each student takes only one-third of the entire assessment.

What is gained is a program evaluation instrument that covers a much more comprehensive range of learning goals than that addressed by a traditional standardized test. The above two examples do not provide individual student scores. The AP Studio Art portfolio assessment is an example of an assessment that is designed to certify individual student attainment over a broad range of competencies and to be closely linked to the actual instruction students have experienced College Board, Student work products are extracted during the course of instruction, collected, and then evaluated for summative evaluation of student attainment.

AP Studio Art is just one of many Advanced Placement AP programs designed to give highly motivated high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses in areas such as biology, history, calculus, and English while still in high school. AP programs provide course descriptions and teaching materials, but do not require that specific textbooks, teaching techniques, or curricula be followed.

Each program culminates in an exam intended to certify whether individual students have mastered material equivalent to that of an introductory college course. AP Studio Art is unique in that at the end of the year, instead of taking a written summative exam, students present a portfolio of materials selected from the work they have produced during the AP course for evaluation by a group of artists and teachers. Preparation of the portfolio requires forethought; work submitted for the various sections must meet the publicly shared criteria set forth by the AP program.

Formative assessment is a critical part of the program as well. Students engage in evaluation of their own work and that of their peers, then use that feedback to inform next steps in building their portfolios. Thus while the AP Studio Art program is not directly based on cognitive research, it does reflect general cognitive principles, such as setting clear learning goals and providing students with opportunities for formative feedback, including evaluation of their own work.

The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12 The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12
The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12 The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12
The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12 The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12
The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12 The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12
The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12 The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12
The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12 The Science Quest: Using Inquiry Discovery to Enhance Student Learning, Grades 7-12

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