Science process skills/Introduction

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One of the major objectives of science teaching is to inculcate scientific temper and to develop scientific attitude among children. This can be accomplished only when teaching, learning and evaluation in science aim to develop and assess the process skills among children. Mostly science teachers resort to evaluate the achievement of a child in science through certain achievement tests and examinations, and very rarely they make an attempt to assess the process skills. The existing practices of assessment are not encouraging changes in teaching style and learning objectives which are essential for learning with understanding through the use of process skills. It is clear that the present ways of assessing children emphasis testing to recall information and a very little attention is paid to the process based outcomes.

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  • The present project aims to develop a scheme to assess process skills, which, in turn, can be used in the training of teachers. Process skills can be assessed only when children are given an opportunity to exhibit them. The essential aspects to be provided, as a stimulus to make children exhibit their process skills can be objects or materials to investigate or to use, problems to solve, or evidence to examine and discuss.

  • Our main concern is to prepare activities and materials that would help children to manifest their process skills into reality. Of course, all activities may not give an opportunity for all the process skills to be assessed. In practice a teacher has to look across several activities to assess the full range.

Criteria for Assessment

Inorder to assess science process skills, it is necessary to identify various criteria for different process skills. These creiteria should be in behavoral terms so that it could be possible to assess them with a sense of objectivity and systematicaly.

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Key points
The following points, about what teachers can do to assess process skills, should be kept in mind while designing a scheme for assessment.
  1. Providing opportunity to use process skills in the exploration of materials and phenomena.
  2. Providing opportunity for discussion in small groups and as a whole class.
  3. Listening to their talk and studying their products to find out the processes which have been used in forming their ideas.
  4. Encouraging critical review of how activities have been carried out.
  5. Providing access to the techniques needed for advancing skills.

An attempt is made in this project, to prepare a scheme to assess following process skills.

Raising Questions
Respect for Evidence
Critical Reflection

The scheme for assessing above process skills may be developed keeping in mind following points.

  1. Identification of content areas where process skills can be exhibited.
  2. Preparation of activities and materials to assess the skill.
  3. The activities may be both independent or integrated to content.
  4. Materials should be suitable and readily available.
  5. Situation and contexts, which help us in assessing any of the process slkills are to be identified and clearly stated.
  6. Assessment procedures during and after teaching may be evolved.
  7. Guidelines to teahers are to be provided.
  8. Weightages or scoring procedures are to be specified.
  9. Assessment may be in any form (oral/written/situational).
  10. Checklists and rating scales may be prepared, if needed.

Child Performance: A Base for Assessment of Process Skills:

The following are some of the main ways of assessing process skills through children performance.

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Key points
  • Children have to use process skills in order to assess them. They are supposed to use their senses to gather evidence, raise questions, form hypotheses on existing ideas and so on. Theoretical knowledge about process skills alone may not help in assessment.
  • It is necessary to design activities wherein children share their ideas, listen to others, explain and defend their ideas. This necessarily involves them in thinking through what they have done, relating ideas to evidence, considering others’ ways of approaching a problem in addition to their own.
  • During and after completion of activity, teacher should assess how children have carried out the activity and encourage them to undertake alternative courses of action and the extent to which this may be improved. This will enable a teacher to identify the process skills that are being exhibited by children.

Assessment Criteria for Process skills

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  1. Observing: Necessary and suitable opportunities and situations are to be provided to children to use their senses to explore objects and phenomena. Children may be allowed to discuss what all they have observed in a given context.
  2. Raising Questions: Children are to be encouraged to raise questions which can be investigable. Allow children to ask any kind of question spontaneously. Teacher has to classify these questions into investigable and non-investigable questions.
  3. Hypothesizing: A hypothesis is an imagination consequent to scientific observation. Mostly children’s hypothesis will be in the form of attempts to explain specific events in their experience rather than in terms of broad statements of principles which explain a whole range of phenomena.
  4. Predicting: Children often implicitly use patterns or hypotheses in making predictions. So teacher has to provide opportunities to make predictions in relation to patterns and hypotheses.
  5. Investigating: This is a process of obtaining relevant data or evidence to verify hypothesis. While providing an opportunity to children to investigate, a teacher may have to assess how children are getting relevant data or evidence.
  6. Interpreting: In order to develop an idea, children have to interpret what they find. They are to relate different kinds of information to each other. Sufficient time is to be provided, to children to interpret their findings, for assessing this skill.
  7. Communicating: It is an ability to present or convey the scientific information thrugh different modes, such as, writing, speaking, drawing etc.
  8. Respect for Evidence: In the process of developing an idea, it is necessary to assess whether children are willing to collect and use suitable evidences.
  9. Flexibility: Willingness to change ideas in the light of available evidences, is an important process skill. Hence, it is necessary to assess whether a child is able to change his/her idea when obtained evidences contradict the original idea.
  10. Critical Reflection: A critical review of procedures executed, is essential when evidences are in contradiction to the assumptions. It is, then, essential to assess whether a child is willing to review the procedure critically.