Testing Scientific Skills: Exploring a protocol to construct exam questions to assess scientific thinking

29th February - 4th March 2016

Inquiry activities are usually time-consuming, but they are important for the development of key competences, especially regarding Inquiry scientific skills.

The PISA definition of Scientific Competence includes three major components: Conceptual (to know and use scientific models to solve problems), Procedural (to design investigations, analyse scientific data and other scientific skills) and Epistemic (related to the understanding of the nature of Science and the way scientific knowledge is constructed and validated).

However, such skills are difficult to assess, and we get into a contradictory situation: we use a lot of class time in high-cognitive demand and high-pedagogic-value inquiry activities, but our assessment remain based on tests containing low-cognitive-demand (remembering, describing,..) and low pedagogic value questions.

Even if other assessment approaches (ePortfolios, rubrics,...) could help, it implies a methodological change in assessment that isn't always easy and can be complex to combine with Inquiry activities. So, improving conventional tests remain the most reasonable option.

The PISA tests demonstrates that this is possible to test such dimensions, and, in particular those scientific skills taking part in the procedural component. Since 2011 the expert has lead EduWikiLab, a group of teachers that undertook this subject and developed and applied several Exam Questions. As a result of this work, a Protocol to construct several kinds of exam questions assessing Scientific Skills arose. During this Distance Learning Activity, the expert will introduce and explain this protocol and give you guidance on how you may apply it to your own teaching situation.

More About the Expert

Jordi Domènech-Casal (1976) holds a PhD in Biology. He worked for 8 years as a researcher on Genetics and Inorganic Chemistry in Universitat de Barcelona, Université Paris VII and Università di Bologna. Since 2008, he is Science Teacher, currently working at the Secondary School INS Granollers (Barcelona), Spain. Furthemore, he is Advisor and teacher trainer at Departament d'Ensenyament de la Generalitat de Catalunya and, from 2010, he is promoting and running the local Science Education projects ProjecteC3 and EduWikiLab. Formerly Scientix Deputy Ambassador, he is currently consultant at the European Project Engaging Science. He is also member of the LIEC (Language and Science Education) Research Group in Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, collaborator of the regional Center for Educative Innovation, and member of the Advisory Board of the International Journal Cuadernos de Pedagogía. His interests are devoted to Inquiry-Based Science Education, Assessment, and Project-Based Learning, and he is the author of several published articles on these topics on National and International Education Journals.