Authentic assessments in the middle school science classroom
Huntington, Lauren Joy
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Teachers are encouraged to differentiate instruction for students with different learning abilities, but we usually implement a summative assessment that is not differentiated for different learners. Authentic assessment gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the content through means other than taking a traditional test, usually in the form of a project. Research also shows that students are more motivated when given autonomy in the classroom. This study was implemented to see if giving students alternative assessments with choice would increase scores, engagement and confidence and decrease test anxiety. Throughout four units of study, 8th-grade physical science students were given summative assessments alternating between traditional and authentic project assessments in which students were offered choice. Pre-tests were given before each unit and pre-test scores were compared with the unit assessment scores. Student growth from pre-test to post-test was then analyzed. Students were also surveyed prior to each assessment about levels of confidence, preparedness and anxiety. They were also asked about feelings regarding traditional assessments and alternative assessments. Students also participated in an assessment that reflected their learning style. Select students were also interviewed. The study showed that there is not a significant difference in test scores between traditional and alternative assessments, but the small difference there was showed students performed slightly better on traditional assessments. Students did feel more confident and prepared for alternative assessments, and also expressed that they strongly prefer projects to traditional tests. Test anxiety did not significantly differ between traditional and alternative assessments. A majority of students do prefer to be given a choice when it comes to doing project assessments and feel that projects give them the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the content.