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A brief history of the assessment of practical work in science . From the introduction of GCSE and the National Curriculum to the recent and proposed changes in both. Aspects include research policy development policy implementation classroom practice. 1988 The introduction of GCSE.

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A brief history of the assessment of practical work in science

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A brief history of the assessment of practical work in science l.jpg

A brief history of the assessment of practical work in science

From the introduction of GCSE and the National Curriculum to the recent and proposed changes in both. Aspects include

  • research

  • policy development

  • policy implementation

  • classroom practice

1988 the introduction of gcse l.jpg

1988 The introduction of GCSE

This combination of GCE and CSE posed several challenges:

  • A single examination for a wide ability range

  • Coursework assessment in CSE and practical exams in GCE

  • The reliability of teacher assessment

  • Increased attention to processes and skills in science

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1988 Sources of assessment tools

  • Assessment of Performance Unit (APU) had developed a range of materials in school trials some of which were later published by SEAC1

  • Graded Assessment in Science Project (GASP) developed criteria for progression

  • Technical & Vocational Education Initiative (TVEI) developed portfolio assessment of experiences - later used in GNVQ

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1988-91 National Curriculum (NC) and Task Group on Assessment and Testing (TGAT)

  • TGAT model of assessment : proposed loose criteria, progressive (levels), formative, by teachers, moderated

  • NC science had 22 (then17) attainment targets (ATs) with 10 levels of attainment at four key stages (KS)

  • GCSE exam boards reject this as unmanageable

  • National Curriculum testing at KS1,2 & 3 by teachers runs into criticism

  • NC science reduced to 4 ATs

  • National Curriculum testing at KS1,2 & 3 becomes a combination of written tests (SATS) and teacher assessment (for ‘practical work’)

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“Practical work’ in the National Curriculum

  • 1989 NC order: AT1 as one of two profile components (the other had 16 ATs). Called ‘The Exploration of Science’ it had a strong investigative emphasis

  • 1991 Revised NC: Sc1 which incorporated AT17 as the ATs were reduced to 5 and then 4. Called ‘Scientific Investigation’, the model was strong on variable handling

  • 1995 Dearing Review results in a simplification of NC and Sc1 becomes ‘Experimental and Investigative Science’

  • 2000 Revised NC incorporated additional material ‘ideas and evidence’in Sc1 and became ‘Scientific Enquiry’

  • 2005 KS4 revision with AT1 as ‘How Science Works’

  • 2008 KS3 revision to match that at KS4

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Early 90’s: Assessment of Sc1 at KS3 & KS4

  • The rapid development of the NC and the criteria framework was not matched by practice in schools; at KS3, Sc1 practice was weaker than in other aspects and at GCSE there was a narrow emphasis on coursework requirements (Ofsted reports2)

  • Sc1 at KS3 to be assessed only by teachers, the proposed auditing system dropped

  • Initial coursework moderation arrangements for GCSE judged inadequate, partly due to different interpretations of ‘investigating’ and of criterion referencing.

  • Exam boards agreed a common framework and criteria for investigative work: (Plan, Observe, Analyse, Evaluate)

  • Despite these changes, schools continued to find the GCSE requirements complex (Donelly3)

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Mid 90’s: Assessment developments

  • New criteria for GCSE: included simplified and less rigid requirements for Sc1 using ‘performance descriptors’ which were ‘criterion-based’ and required teacher judgment, with moderation

  • Publication of annotated pupils’ work exemplifying levels of attainment (SEAC 19954) - ‘best fit’ for assessment

  • ‘Inside the Black Box’ proclaimed the value of teacher assessment (TA), regretted the neglect of this in recent policies and is critical of the practice of TA in NC assessment and of the reduction of coursework in GCSE

  • The Assessment Reform Group research highlights the importance of assessment to pedagogy with issues such as feedback to pupils and peer and self-assessment

  • The AKSIS project review of practice in Sc1 at KS2 & KS3 found a limited range with ‘fair testing’ dominant

  • AKSIS recommended a better match between assessment procedures at KS3 and KS4, and better moderation at KS2 & KS3

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Around 2000: Curriculum Development

The moratorium on NC changes between 1995 and 2000 allowed time for development work:

  • Schemes of Work for KS1,2&3 published, but with little advice on assessment practicalities (QCA5)

  • Classroom practice of Sc1 was often formulaic, intended for assessment purposes and rarely done as a normal part of the lesson (Donelly6)

  • ‘Beyond 2000’ review made radical proposals for extending the nature of assessment in science, but did not address ‘practical work’

  • ‘Twentyfirst Century Science’ project which was developed from this led to revised KS4 NC and new GCSE criteria

  • These changes broadened Sc1 into ‘How Science Works’

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Early 2000’s: Assessment development

  • Research into assessment of ‘Ideas and Evidence’ by objective and structured questions (Osborne & Ratcliffe7)

  • Development of written tools to assess skills and procedural understanding (Gott & Roberts8)

  • Assessing Progress in Science (APS) - exemplars of pupils work, pedagogy and criteria development (QCA9)

  • Assessing Pupil Progress (APP) - new criteria framework, assessment advice and exemplars, to replace SATS (DCSF10) - training programme by Secondary National Strategy, Science

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GCSE changes 2005-20011

  • 2004: Science exam compulsory for all, and to include work related learning

  • 2005: GNVQ phased out, alternatives are BTec, OCR Nationals and Applied Science GCSE

  • 2006: New (C21st) GCSEs with a wide range of assessments of ‘How Science Works’ to replace and extend the Sc1 assessments - now called Controlled Assessment

  • 2008: Concerns about consistency of standards in GCSE science - changes to exams in 2008/9 and criteria for 2011(Ofqual11)

  • Consultation on new GCSE science criteria (QCDA12)

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Some other aspects

  • Vocational/work- related course assessment - GNVQ, BTec, Applied GCSE, Diplomas

  • The language of measurement and terminology in exams (ASE/Nuffield13)

  • Experience beyond England eg Scotland’s sampling assessment of practical activities by field officers

  • IGCSE and choice of examination (CIE14)

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Current Issues

  • How can the distortion of the curriculum by assessment methods be minimised?

  • Since products are easier to assess reliably than processes, what is the minimum of process assessment, to ensure practical assessment is valid?

  • How much choice should teachers and students have in their assessment instruments and assessed work?

  • Will the current developments of APP and Controlled Assessments improve both the reliability and validity of the assessment of Practical Science?

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