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Science in Action: Hands on and Interactive Computer Tasks from the 2009 Science Assessment


"Interactive computer and hands-on tasks were designed to assess how well students can perform scientific investigations, draw valid conclusions, and explain their results. As a part of the 2009 science assessment, a new generation of hands-on tasks was administered during which students worked with lab materials and other equipment to perform experiments. While hands-on tasks have been used in NAEP since the 1990s, these new tasks present students with more open-ended scenarios that require a deeper level of planning, analysis, and synthesis. For the first time, the NAEP science assessment also included interactive computer tasks in science. While performing the interactive computer and hands-on tasks, students manipulate objects and perform actual experiments, offering us richer data on how students respond to scientific challenges. Several key discoveries were observed.
  • Students were successful on parts of investigations that involved limited sets of data and making straightforward observations of that data.
  • Students were challenged by parts of investigations that contained more variables to manipulate or involved strategic decision making to collect appropriate data.
  • The percentage of students who could select correct conclusions from an investigation was higher than for those students who could select correct conclusions and also explain their results."