Measuring the effectiveness of projects and student learning ownership through differentiated assessments in science

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


The purpose of this study was to measure the effect of choice in assessment style in the science classroom, and to measure the reliability of projects as assessment instruments relative to teacher-generated tests. I also planned to measure student attitudes towards having choice in the style of their assessment, and to see if student ownership of learning increased with the use of formative assessments while completing the project. The intervention took place over a four week period in March and April of 2014, and it involved 23 ninth grade biology students at New Canaan Country School, a small independent day school in New Canaan, CT. During the intervention, students first completed a unit on DNA structure and replication. One group was assessed with a test, and the other group was assessed on a project in the format of their choosing. A crossover study model was used here, so that at the end of the second unit on protein synthesis, each group had completed both a test and a project. Data collection involved both quantitative and qualitative measures: a comparison of those tests and project results, student attitude surveys, teacher observations, and a student questionnaire. Results suggest that projects are a reliable assessment instrument; they were largely preferred by students, and students were more involved in the process of their own learning, demonstrated by reported time spent on task and effectiveness of formative assessment pieces.




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