Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment/Performance Assessment and Rubrics/Elementary Science
As a teacher-in-training, I often imagine myself leading my future students through the curriculum. Before beginning any formal teacher preparation classes, I intended to use many of the same techniques in my classroom that were used by my grade school teachers, including lecturing, the occasional pop quiz, and end of chapter testing. However, as Michael Kamen describes the transformation that elementary school science teacher Virginia made, other student teachers and I soon realize that the traditional assessment method of “teaching first and assessing second” may not give the best opportunity for all students to express their knowledge for credit(Kamen, 1998).
Coursework for elementary science has changed over the past few decades, specifically the past 10 years after U.S. students continue to fall below the high scores of Asian students in math and science on standardized tests (Ramirez). During his campaigning in 2008, President Obama expressed his desire to make math and science education a priority during his term in office, with some schools already trying to accomplish this by using text books from Singapore (Ramirez). High emphasis has been placed on students' math and science scores. For these reasons, researches are looking for ways to assess students’ science achievement in the classroom that is different from the measurements taken by national, state, and local associations (Baxter).
Old fashioned scoring methods of science achievement have several problems in modern science education. While students need to be familiar with and know strategies for selective response testing due to the many standardized tests they are subjected to in public schools, many children have a difficult time taking these tests. Multiple choice tests often limit students to choose one of four options that are written in a different language than what the student can understand or relate to (Kamen).
One way to better measure achievement of science students is for teachers and school administrators to implement alternative assessment practices in the classroom. Alternative assessments to measure student achievement in elementary science can include creative drama, student portfolios, oral presentations, and performance assessments. Teachers watch students performing experiments as individuals or in small groups or during presentations and assign them a grade or points based on certain criteria.
Alternative assessments benefit teachers and students in a classroom by acting as a “bridge between content areas”, such as assigning writing projects in science class (Kamen). Another major advantage is the “interplay” between student assessment and teaching techniques (Kamen).
There are two ways to implement performance assessment in the classroom: 1)homemade techniques that are individualized by the teacher and customized to his or her students abilities and 2)out-of-the-box pre-developed classroom cirriculums.
Homemade assessment techniques require minimal cost. Examples of homemade assessments are student-written notebooks or laboratory journals or logs, oral presentations, and student-written questions for traditional tests.
Out-of-the-box cirriculums can be expensive when purchased, but some are available to all for free, such as FOSS: Full Option Science System. FOSS has two major studies occurring including ASK Project: Assessing Science Knowledge and FAST Project: Formative Assessment for Science through Technology.
- Parents and concerned citizens, like Toni Jenkins of TX who commented to U.S. News and World Report's online newsstory Study: U.S. Trails Asian Countries in Math and Science, are bitter towards the large amount of standardized testing given to public school students.
- Virginia, Kamen 1998
1. According to the article, why has school cirriculum placed a larger emphasis on math and science content in the last 10 years? A. to tighten immigration laws B. to raise U.S. student testing scores to meet or exceed students in Asian countries C. to obtain increased funding for public schools from NASA D. to eventually compete with Russian students now traveling to outer space
Study: U.S. Trails Asian Countries in Math and Science. Retrieved March 23, 2009, from U.S. News and World Report: http://www.usnews.com/blogs/on-education/2008/12/9/study-us-trails-asian-countries-in-math-and-science.html