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Review of the matierals written by Derek Bell, Vice Principal of Bishop Grosseteste College

TES, 28 December 2001, page 19

Assessment is an essential part of the teaching and learning process and is an integral element in the dialogue between teachers and their pupils. Both parties, for different reasons, have an interest in monitoring the progress that is being made in developing the knowledge, skills and understanding in particular concept areas. The wide-ranging and often controversial debate on how pupils' progress can and should be assessed, however, does not provide direct support for teachers. The Science Assessment Series 1 and 2 materials have been produced, as the authors say, " in response to a specific need identified by teachers [who] asked for a means of checking children's understanding of the science taught at any point during primary and secondary education.

The authors have used their considerable expertise in assessment and expertise in test design to produce materials which are clear, easy to use and, by reference to standardised scores, can be related to levels of attainment in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Although the tests are paper-based they address assessment of experimental and investigative science as well as covering science knowledge, and conceptual understanding.

While most questions and answers are unambiguous, it is almost inevitable that one or two could lead to reinforcing misconceptions of the science being covered. One, the answer to the bluebell question in Series 1, is particularly inaccurate and misleading.

Helpful practical advice is provided on how to use the materials and on ways of interpreting the results to meet the variety of demands on teachers who have to make judgements about the progress of individual children and meet the wider demands of school targets. The text does advise some caution when interpreting the outcomes of the individual tests.

There is no doubt these materials will be widely used by many teachers, but I hope that the tests are not used as the sole instrument of assessment because the whole process is much more complex.

There is also no doubt that the development and publication of materials such as these will provide further grounds for continuing the debate about how pupils' knowledge, skills and conceptual understanding of science should be assessed.

CRIPSAT, University of Liverpool, 126 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool L69 3GR - 0151 794 3270