Education

Out-of-School Science Needs Better Assessments

By Nora Fleming — July 11, 2013 2 min read

Out-of-school-time environments are not only good opportunities to provide hands-on science instruction, but to establish more defined and consistent assessments of new methods of science learning, says a new report.

According to “Game-Changers and the Assessment Predicament in Afterschool Science,” both the practices for teaching science in OST programs and the assessments used to evaluate the instruction are variable and need improvement.

“The after-school field faces an assessment predicament: If it does not establish some indicators and tools of its own, it will increasingly be forced to measure itself by state and national test outcomes, which are mismatched with the philosophy and goals of many informal science experiences in OST,” the report’s authors write.

The future of assessment in out-of-school science can and should change, it says, citing four “game-changers” that are guiding and influencing the after-school field on integrating science instruction into programs.

The game changers, in summary:
- After-school programs are increasingly expected to provide hands-on science learning as schools have reduced classroom science instruction.
- There is growing consensus that students learn science best through hands-on instruction and exploration.
- After-school programs are increasingly using community resources such as zoos or gardens to enhance offerings.
- After-school programs, like schools, are facing added pressure to assess and evaluate student learning.

Given that out-of-school environments have more freedom to use outside resources and are less inhibited by time constraints like the school day, these programs have great opportunity to integrate high-quality science instruction into curricula, it says. Yet since the instruction is different, so to should be measurement and evaluation of it.

The authors urge the out-of-school community to work together to craft common assessments for out-of-school science learning by building on existing work on assessments and improving them, using such data as surveys and observations to make instruction (and the programs themselves) stronger. Programs should examine what teaching styles seem to work best to foster student interest in the subject, what interactions occur between students and teachers during science instruction, and what resources seem to enrich the learning experiences the most.

The report was built on the discussions and findings from a summit last year, supported by several major foundations and the Board of Science Education at the National Research Council and the Program in Educational, Afterschool, and Resiliency (PEAR) at Harvard University (publisher of the report).

A version of this news article first appeared in the Beyond School blog.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools
Project Manager
United States
K12 Inc.
High School Permanent Substitute Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District
MS STEM Teacher
Woolwich Township, NJ, US
Kingsway Regional School District

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read