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Assessment of Hands-On Elementary Science Projects

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Assessing Hands-On Science: A Teacher's Guide to Performance Assessment

This book, by Janet Harley Brown and Richard J. Shavelson, steers the reader towards understanding and selecting a particular measure, tailored to the teacher's practical needs.

Topics include...

  • why use performance assessment?
  • what do performance assessments measure?
  • defining performance assessment
  • scoring student performance
  • use of performance assessments in the classroom
  • examples of a holistic scoring system
  • choosing an assessment you can trust, and
  • which performance assessment is best for your purpose?

This book is highly readable and can be used in a worksheet format.

The LOC monograph

The LOC monograph (#90-062318), edited by George Hein and prepared at the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Dakota in 1990 under NSF auspices, provides assessment strategies for telecommunications projects(in addition to other dimensions of science education for younger students).

For example, rather than asking about formula required to change heat states (p.198ff), you could ask why it takes frozen peas longer to come to a boil than fresh peas - actual thinking rather than regurgitation of a theory.

In the unit Acid Rain from the National Geographic Kids Network, project students are asked to examine data on a map that shows wind patterns and emission sources and to predict where acid rain will become the most serious problem. Rather than administering a general questionnaire about whether student attitudes improved after this project, these researchers interviewed students and elicited nicely specific examples of how scientists might address human problems.

Finally, they applied embedded assessment techniques by building in specific writing assignments at particular places in the telecommunications curriculum. This approach provides guidance to the teacher, as projects progress, as well as policy-makers, that "reflect the reality of what it means to do science."(p.203)

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to obtain a hard-copy of this book.

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Educational Testing Service

The Educational Testing Service site is dedicated primarily to their standardized tests; under teaching and learning is a list of current performance assessment studies and measures.

These nuggets of assessing understanding crop up rarely in curriculum. The good news is that once you focus student inquiry in this vein all sorts of intriguing extensions will come to mind, many from your own students. The authors have not jumped on the hands-on bandwagon thoughtlessly; they included protocols from their experience to illustrate the contexts in which this method has worked well and where it has not.

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