Assessment for inquiry: supporting teaching and learning in primary science

McMahon, K and Davies, D (2003) 'Assessment for inquiry: supporting teaching and learning in primary science.' Science Education International, 14 (4). pp. 29-39. ISSN 1022-6117

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This article reports on findings from a two-year project - 'Improving Science Together' (1ST) - undertaken in 20 primary and 4 secondary schools in Bristol, UK. The project was funded by AstraZeneca PLC as part of the national AZ Science Teaching Trust initiative, and had as one of its aims the development of science teaching and learning through targeted assessment and 'focused teaching' of specific inquiry skills. The research team made participant and non-partici­pant observations in every school and held inter­views with teachers to find out how they respon­ded to using this approach, and how they ma­naged its implementation. Our data suggest that participation in targeted assessment and focused teaching has increased teacher confidence and led to a greater willingness to undertake investigative work in the classroom. Another effect observed has been enhanced clarity of learning intentions in science lessons and the provision of more appropriate scaffolding of children's learning. This has led to assessments of specific scientific inquiry skills becoming more useful in helping teachers to identify and communicate effectively to children how to improve. Children in observed lessons had a clearer understanding of what was expected of them, and so were more motivated and likely to remain on task. The implementation of the strategy has been most effective where teachers have understood the importance of pro­viding opportunities to carry out whole investigations that enable the children to apply their full range of skills as independently as possible. For this reason, it has also been more appropriate for teachers of the 7 -11 age group than for 5-7 clas­ses, as developing skills in isolation from an inquiry context can be less meaningful for younger children.

Item Type: Article

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Keywords: formative assessment, scientific inquiry, primary, teaching skills
Divisions: School of Education
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Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2012 04:45
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:31
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