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Recent calls for science education reform have consistently highlighted the importance of engaging students in the practice of science for both the development of a scientific workforce and a scientifically literate citizenry. The Framework for K-12 Education and the Next Generation Science Standards identify a set of eight practices considered essential for learning science, and emphasize that students’ understanding of the practices of science and engineering is as important to understanding science as knowledge of its content. While the Framework focuses on K-12 education, we argue that these same practices are relevant to science education at all levels, and that the laboratory is the ideal place for students to engage with and learn about these practices. However, it has yet to be studied whether engagement in the practices has any effect student learning outcomes. One reason for this is the absence of appropriate assessment items that can provide evidence of the ways that students engage with the practices, and how this may change over time.

There are two major goals of this project: The first goal is to develop assessment items, focusing on three practices: (1) Planning and carrying out investigations; (2) Analyzing and interpreting data; and (3) Constructing explanations/engaging in argument from evidence. These assessment items will be developed using an iterative process, which includes identifying the key elements of each practice that can be assessed, developing tasks and scoring rubrics, and establishing validity, reliability, and practicality. Items will be reviewed initially by our advisory board, members of which have extensive expertise in both laboratory instruction and instrument development, tested with students using think aloud interviews, and revised as necessary. The second goal is to use the assessment items in two different laboratory environments (one transformed and one traditional) to answer the research question: How does engagement with the practices in the laboratory environment affect students’ use of scientific practices?

  • Focus: Undergraduate Students
  • Funder: National Science Foundation
  • Team: Justin Carmel (PI - FIU), Melanie Cooper (PI - Michigan State), Deborah Herrington (PI - Grand Valley State University)
  • Award Number: #1708506
  • Amount: $188,270.00
  • Contact: Justin Carmel (