U.S. Students and Science: AAAS Testing Gives New Insight on What Students Know and Their Misconceptions
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has launched an innovative website to help educators assess more precisely what students know about key ideas in science and — just as importantly — the incorrect ideas they have. It offers a detailed picture of how middle and high school students across the United States are currently doing in science and features information on what they know and on hundreds of misconceptions they have about everything from the size of atoms to whether all organisms have DNA. Knowing these misconceptions and how pervasive they are—which is not typically part of the analysis of test results from state testing or from leading national and international testing organizations—can help teachers improve instruction and design their own test questions to better assess whether students truly understand the science concepts they are being taught. The newly developed test questions also counter the widely held view that multiple choice questions are useful only for testing recall of memorized definitions and trivial facts, says George DeBoer, deputy director of Project 2061, the AAAS program that developed the new assessment website. “As a result of our efforts, many of the test questions included in the new website measure not only knowledge of factual information, but they also probe a student’s ability to explain real-world phenomena, reason logically through problem situations, or identify the reason why a claim is true,” DeBoer said…
The new AAAS website (http://assessment.aaas.org) presents detailed information on how a national sample of students answered each question, along with an analysis of both their correct and incorrect responses.
With increasing calls for national science standards and a common core curriculum for middle-school and high-school students, it is more important than ever to get assessment right, DeBoer said. “Good assessments can be used to actually improve students’ learning and not just to hold teachers and schools accountable,” he added. “Assessments that are designed to diagnose students’ misconceptions can be powerful educational tools.”