An Investigation of Authentic Assessment in Science in One of Saudi Arabias Primary School

Due to its unique context in the sphere of education a new assessment methodology has been implemented in the current study. The performance-based assessment tends to measure skills, including the ability to integrate knowledge across different disciplines, contribution to the group work, and development of an action plan. Several schools in Saudi Arabia were the research participants. The researcher has developed a performance assessment approach on the basis of the constructivist learning concepts. The instruction and learning content focused on the inquiry and problem solving in the science classroom.

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To meet the research aims and objectives an interview has been conducted as well as numerous empirical studies have been analysed. It enabled to examine issues related to the professional development program and analyse the effects of curricula and assessment options on pedagogical approaches and educational outcomes. The study has been built on the existing knowledge-bases of performance-based assessment and has provided a cultural context regarding the introduction of both curriculum and teaching related to the performance assessment procedures within the system of Saudi primary schools.

The first research question addressed the differences between the science learning outcome type that can be achieved by the use of the performance-based assessment and traditional testing methods. The study has shown that there are significant statistical differences in the science post-test scores between the experimental and control groups.

The second question covered the students' attitude toward science affected by performance based assessment. The researcher has found that there are significant statistical differences in the post-test of the SATSS between the experimental and control groups. It has helped to reject the null hypothesis that there is no substantial difference in terms of statistics between the above-mentioned groups toward science.

 

The third research question dealt with the predictability of the students' final science examination outcomes through performance based assessment. The data have been collected through the application of the study program's performance assessment in science classes. The researcher used six science activities. It has been found that nearly one fourth of the final science test scores can be predicted by the performance-based assessment scores.

The fourth question addressed the differences between the teachers in their performance assessment competencies as measured by the Teacher Performance Assessment Questionnaire before and after their participation in the study project. The researcher has examined the main paired t-test assumption. The study has indicated that the mean score for teacher performance has slightly increased, but it did not reach a statistically significant .05 level. It leads to the conclusion that the null hypothesis can be accepted as there are no significant differences in the performance assessment competencies of the science teachers as they are measured by the TPAQ between pre-test and post-test is accepted.

The fifth question covered the work of performance-based assessment in relation to the Saudi primary school environment. The interview results have shown that teachers find both advantages and disadvantages associated with the new performance assessment approach. Students appeared to be more active and cooperative in groups. It made them more responsible for their learning. In addition, the new approach encouraged teachers and students to use the skills of critical thinking. There was no difference between students with low and high achievements as both of them were encouraged to participate in groups. In general, the approach helped become more creative and cooperative. However, some teacher participants indicated the disadvantages of the implemented method. They were related to the extended time period required, extra effort, difficulties of correcting students, as well as inability to use the performance assessment approach with a large number of students. Time was considered to be the major obstacle for the study project implementation. Despite the fact that some teachers had difficulties applying the approach, they enjoyed participating in the study project. In general, they found many benefits for themselves and for their students. Many interview participants indicated substantial professional development as a result of participating in the science class project. The activities, such as running group work, experiments, open-ended questions, and using assessment formatively, were especially praised. The students showed interest in the experiment and enjoyed doing science.

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The sixth research question dealt with the way science teachers evaluate their experience of training and using performance-based assessment. The research has shown that teachers in the participating primary schools experienced a shortage of science books and curriculum materials. The same situation was with science laboratories as all schools had inadequate laboratories and lacked relevant curriculum materials. In addition, science laboratories, particularly in the rented primary schools built for residential purposes, failed to have proper safety procedures. Some interviewed teachers claimed that mostly principals and teachers played the major role in implementation of the new assessment approach.

The seventh question addresses the way students in 6th grade evaluate their participation in implementing performance-based assessment. Students reflected that during the first semester they were studying, while during the second semester they used their minds. In most cases, students are performing experiments by themselves and thinking. The student participants claimed that the implementation of the performance-based assessment helped them better perform the experiments, although they had no experiments during the last semester. They stated that the main problem with the traditional method, students asserted was difficulty to understand science properly from reading the science book or writing in the exercise book. All the participants were convinced that the new performance assessment method provided them with a great opportunity to participate actively in the science class and learn by themselves. Moreover, students began to pay considerable attention to the self-assessment, finding it very important. They liked projects and portfolios, which were essential forms of the performance-based assessment.

Thus, the research has not shown great difference between both the experimental and control groups in terms of scores, only in terms of the attitudes of the experimental and control groups toward science. It has been found that teachers believed that the traditional methods limit the students' development as it was teacher-centred. The implementation of the performance-based assessment made students more involved in their own learning and encouraged them to use critical thinking skills. Although both students and teachers reflected about numerous advantages of the new approach, some of them pointed out slight disadvantages. However, teachers claimed that the difficulties and disadvantages of the methods were associated with the unfavourable school environment, time limitation, and school-day duties. Students found that the new approach gave an opportunity to take an active part in the science class and make experiments on the basis of the group work. It encouraged them to work in close cooperation and help each other. Such opportunities were not provided by the traditional method.

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The research results are consistent with the empirical studies as they suggest that the performance-based assessment has a positive influence on the teaching and learning outcomes. The new method indicated substantial development in the teaching and assessment practices as it provided improved opportunities for problem-solving activities, enhanced development and implementation of the rubrics for scoring open-ended problems, as well as put an emphasis on the students' explanations.

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