Issues in process assessment in science teaching

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (M. Ed.)


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi


The current debate on paradigm shift in pedagogy favours the constructivist approach. The Constructivist approach is based on the cognitive learning theory, in which learners construct knowledge through experience. The experiences from hands-on and minds-on activities make the abstraction of knowledge a procession in a continuum of known to unknown. The use of concrete materials in hands-on activities to create cognitive dissonance develops a sense of inquiry in learners when they attempt to resolve the discrepancy. However, the paradigm shift cannot be complete if there are no new ways to assess the intended learning outcomes, such as critical thinking and problem solving. If learning is achieved through variety of experiences, then, its assessment should also involve a variety of opportunities for learners to display what they know. The current tools of measuring learning outcomes are dominated by paper-and-pencil tests, which are passive, and mainly focus on knowledge content at the expense of skills. Furthermore, some learners may have difficulties in expressing themselves in written assessment, but can get their ideas if provided with alternatives. Other learners simply have different ways of expressing themselves, just as they have different learning styles. The situation is worsened by the use of assessment results for making high stake decisions such as placement and certification. This use of assessment for accountability creates pressure on teachers, which has lead to teaching the test. In science, this has lead to teaching science as a body of facts mainly composed of terminology. Thus, the key to effective assessment is to match the assessment tasks and the intended student outcomes. Assessment systems, which are likely to provide the most comprehensive feedback on student growth, include multiple measures taken over time. This ensures reliability, as there will be information about the learner’s progress from a variety of experiences. The rich experiences should be documented in forms of portfolios and profiles to further reinforce full coverage of the curriculum. The portfolios can be used for accountability and to evaluate the education programmes. However, the shift in assessment will require an acquisition of new skills, and the logical way is to train teachers to assess. The reliance on external examiners might only lead to more drills in tasks that are used by such external examiners for assessments.

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