Assessment of Complex Reasoning in Science

Prof. Nancy B. Songer
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Perhaps never before has the issue of measurement of student learning in science been so complex and important. While international tests demonstrate that American science students under perform on achievement tests relative to peers internationally, educational policy and global science challenges such as AIDS, nanotechnology and biodiversity demand strong performances and scientific advances. Consequences of poor performance can be particularly pronounced for girls and urban students in America such as those in the Detroit Public Schools, as in many cities, while derepresented populations continue to grow and standardized test scores remain low. Most current large-scale assessments in science capture only snapshots of performance and therefore are a poor means of demonstrating students’ learning progressions. What is needed is a systematic, developmental approach to science assessment that can provide convincing evidence of early, intermediate and advanced levels of progress towards expertise.

In BioKIDS: Kids’ Inquiry of Diverse Species, experts in cognitive science, educational measurement, and classroom-based science education work together towards the design and evaluation of a suite of assessments specifically designed to provide convincing evidence of students’ development of complex understandings throughout an entire academic year. Quasi-experimental results compared the progression of content and inquiry reasoning between students implementing 95% of curricular activities (full implementation) and 30% or curricular activities or less (partial implementation; total N =2205). Results demonstrate that both partial and full implementation students significantly improve from pre to posttest on content and simple reasoning tasks, however the gains made on complex reasoning are significantly better in the full implementation group as compared to the partial implementation group. In conclusion, now is the time to systematically study and understand the coordination of curricular units, assessment systems and instruction to empower science students world-wide to embrace their own science and technology-rich future.

Keywords: Cognitive Science, Science Education, Learning Technologies, Accountability and Testing
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and the Behavioural Sciences, Education and Social Welfare
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof. Nancy B. Songer

Professor of Science Education and Learning Technologies, School of Education, The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Dr. Songer is a Professor of Science Education and Learning Technologies at the University of Michigan and the Director of BioKIDS: Kids’ Inquiry of Diverse Species []. In BioKIDS, thousands of high-poverty middle school students track and analyze data to determine the biodiversity of their schoolyards leading to deep conceptual understanding of scientific phenomena. New work also explores the design and evaluation of science assessments to effectively evaluate complex reasoning.
Songer’s research publications number over sixth and appear in Science Education, The International Journal of Science Education, The Journal of the Learning Sciences, and Educational Researcher. Over the past ten years, Songer has been Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator of nearly 10 million dollars in sponsored research. Recent awards include a Promising Technology Award from the United States Department of Education, the Early Career Research Award from the National Association of Research in Science Teaching, and a 1995 National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellowship awarded by President William J. Clinton.

Ref: I06P0235