Considerable resources must therefore be devoted to preparing teachers and others in the science education system to design and rate assessments that require students to display understanding, such as just described.

Assessing the Ability to Inquire

The second assessment example focuses on inquiry. The content standards call for understanding scientific inquiry and developing the ability to inquire. As in understanding the natural world, understanding and doing inquiry are contingent on knowing concepts, principles, laws, and theories of the physical, life, and earth sciences. Inquiry also requires reasoning capabilities and skills in manipulating laboratory or field equipment.

As in understanding the natural world, inferences about students' ability to inquire

Understanding and doing inquiry are contingent on knowing concepts, principles, laws, and theories of the physical, life, and earth sciences.

and their understanding of the process can be based on the analysis of performance in the science classroom and work products.

The example that follows describes twelfth grade students' participation in an extended inquiry. The exercise serves two purposes. It provides the teacher with information about how well students have met the inquiry standards. Equally important, it serves as a capstone experience for the school science program. The extended inquiry is introduced early in the school year. It involves students working as individuals and in small groups investigating a question of their choice.

IDENTIFYING A WORTHWHILE AND RESEARCHABLE QUESTION. Throughout the school science program, students have been encouraged to identify questions that interest them and are amenable to investigation. These questions are recorded in student research notebooks. Early in the senior year of high school, students prepare draft statements of the question they propose to investigate and discuss why that question is a reasonable one. Those drafts are circulated to all members of the class. Students prepare written reviews of their classmate's proposals, commenting on the quality of the research question and the rationale for investigating it. Students then revise their research question based on peer feedback. Finally, students present and defend their revised questions to the class.

PLANNING THE INVESTIGATION. The teacher encourages but does not require students to work together in research groups of two to four students. After presenting research questions to the class, students form the research groups, which come to agreement on a question to investigate and begin developing a preliminary plan for conducting the investigation. Each individual in the group is required to keep extensive records of the group's work, especially documenting the evolution of their final research question from the several questions originally proposed. As plans for investigations evolve, the research questions are sharpened and modified to meet the practical constraints of time and resources available

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