The role of technology in science assessments

Technology enhanced assessments can measure complex knowledge in a way impossible through paper-and-pencil testing, and are more reflective of how students learn. Jody Clarke-Midura discusses the potential

IMAGINE AN EIGHTH GRADE STUDENT TAKING A SCIENCE test on a computer. She is in Massachusetts, yet on the computer walking around a 3-D simulation of an Alaskan Bay, investigating a decline in kelp population. She has collected data and identified the water temperature as the possible cause. In order to test her idea, she measures the water temperature in an area north of the bay and finds it to be cooler. She next clicks on an interactive map to relocate the kelp to this new location. After six weeks (30 seconds in classroom time), she visits the replanted kelp and takes new measurements of the water temperature and turbidity.

What we know
● Higher-order thinking skills related to sophisticated cognition (e.g., inquiry processes, formulating scientific explanations, scientific reasoning) are difficult to measure with multiple-choice or even constructed-response paper-and-pencil tests.
● Many states and international testing programs are starting to use technology to deliver high-stakes tests, however the potential of technology for changing assessment is only starting to be realized.
● Numerous reports document the importance of technology for changing and improving assessments.
● Technology enhanced assessments are more reflective of how students learn and can alleviate some of the issues that hands-on performance assessments had around reliability, authenticity, and scalability.

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October 2010