"Assessment is a central part of science education today, but understanding assessment's many forms and purposes requires insights gleaned from multiple points of view. The teacher in the classroom, the researcher focused on particular strategies, the developer of state-level tests, the teacher educator looking at the relationship between professional development and student achievement--the perspectives of these educators and others shape the national dialogue on how assessment can best help students learn science. ...Project 2061's team of assessment researchers has once again added their voice to this dialogue by contributing to a new collection of essays from NSTA Press.
The focus of this chapter is on how to design science assessment items that are linked to the content standards in Benchmarks for Science Literacy and the National Science Education Standards. It outlines AAAS Project 2061's approach to the design of assessment items that can be used with students in middle and early high school. The chapter describes (1) our criteria for determining that the assessment items test the targeted ideas and not some other ideas, (2) precautions we take to ensure that each assessment item is a fair and accurate measure of student knowledge, and (3) the use we make of student feedback during item development rather than relying solely on psychometric features to judge the suitability of the items. Drawing on a set of example items and students' responses to them, we show how data obtained from students through pilot-testing provide important insights about what students do and do not know and how those insights can be used to improve the effectiveness of each assessment item as a measure of student learning. "