Comparing student performance and perception of competence on summative science performance tasks versus written science summative tests at the sixth grade level
Barnes, Carli Ruth
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This study examines the effects on student performance of designing performance tasks based on the Next Generation Science Standards. It also assesses sixth grade students' accuracy in determining their final test scores on both traditional written unit final tests and final performance tasks. Eighty-four sixth graders in four different classes were studied across four different science units. Two classes formed Sample A and two classes formed Sample B. They alternated taking traditional written end of unit tests and taking performance tasks instead. They recorded their predicted scores and their feelings about each test on a survey immediately after testing. The study's results are inconclusive. While the teachers felt less confident preparing students for the performance tasks, students appeared to prefer them, and did moderately better on them. How much better was not found to be statistically significant, though. Students in Sample B consistently outperformed Sample A on all assessments, but Sample A students reported having studied for final tests more often. In all, this study shows how middle school students can be unpredictable and are not always self aware, but do prefer to be engaged in hands-on learning. There may be something to be said for student enjoyment of an assessment, even if the final scores students earn on non traditional tests are only moderately better.