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Introduction to Standards Based Assessment
A standard has been defined as a degree of quality or achievement, especially a level that is perceived to be acceptable. The main purpose of the standard is its ability to be used to measure the degree of quality with reference to an item or subject (Steiner, n.d.). With regard to education a standard describes the knowledge and skills required of any individual at various stages within the education system.
The educational standards determine what a student is supposed to and what they are meant to be capable of doing, though they determine how to give instruction. The use of standards allows all students equal opportunity and increased incentive. This situation implies the existence of a common standard to which student performance can be gauged (Steiner, n.d.).
Standards provide advantages for the various participants in the education process. The state benefits through implementation of standards based system in that it has a widely used point of reference in the standard which as provides a straightforward basis for testing.
At the district and school level the use of these standards provide several advantages such as; it is easier to develop new methods of representing curriculum content, it’s easier to develop new methods for instruction and plans for testing. For teachers the benefit comes from ease in designing curriculum, assessment and instruction based on what deserves priority in learning.
For pupils the standards allow them to identify exactly what needs to be done to improve performance while parents have an easier time determining children’s progress in school.
This approach to education is useful in raising expectations for all students. Unfortunately the standards alone are inadequate in raising the level of education to the quality desired. Equally instrumental and essential to the process is the curriculum specifications and materials, resources guides, professional development and assessments (Linn & Herman, 1997).
Curriculum need for Science Students
As stated in the introduction curriculum is essential in achieving the objectives of standards based education. The main difference in the science curriculum objectives following the introduction of standards based assessment is increased emphasis on the need to provide student instruction that imparts skills for investigation and inquiry.
The traditional curriculum focus required students to memorize many facts in response to the need to perform well on assessment. These curriculum requirements also place a challenge on both education and science communities to transform the definition of science experiences for students in the classroom (Marx et al., 2004).
A well designed science curriculum in standards based setting should assume the student requires solutions to real problems. In this regard the content instructs on asking and refining questions, design and participation in investigation, analysis of information or data, interpretation of results, drawing of conclusions and reporting findings (Marx et al., 2004).
As earlier stated the standards dictate what a student is expected to know but do not dictate method used in instruction. This implies that an oversight body is required to either prepare curriculum materials or perform regular assessment to ensure students are indeed learning the expected material.
This position places a great challenge to the teachers and students engaged in these institutions. The use of instructional methods based on recitation and direct instruction are often inadequate. To successfully achieve the objectives of this curriculum need requires that the teacher develop new content knowledge skills, teaching techniques, assessment approaches and classroom management skills.
The student is also expected to change their classroom interactions (Marx et al., 2004). It is reported that this new mode of learning requires increased collaboration with peers, critical thinking about complex concepts and relating concepts to life both in and out of school. This suggests that teachers can not simply change to inquiry based approaches from direct instruction and recitation (Marx et al., 2004).
Some additional training is required to realign the instructor, curriculum and mode of instruction. Reformers concerned with science education have indicated that professional development appears to be the best means of bringing about the changes in classroom culture required for improvements in student performance (Supovitz & Turner, 2000).
Staff Development for Effective Science Instruction
In the provision of this need to students it is important to keep in mind that staff development, for administrators and teachers has been reported to be very crucial for instructional improvement (Elmore & Burney, 1997).
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This implies that to successfully achieve the goal of improving inquiry based instruction for science students, the teachers may require some additional training. This fact is supported by statistics that indicate student performance has not shown any significant changes despite the introduction of reform strategies in education (Elmore & Burney, 1997).
Strategies have been devised to assist the teachers in achieving their goals in the classroom. Among these strategies is the use of instructional consulting services. This strategy involves the guidance of an external consultant who assists through provision of support and development of close working relationships with small groups of teachers.
Teachers involved with a specific grade can prepare a common planning schedule to allow the free exchange of ideas. Another effective strategy identified is the use of peer networks. This involves building working partnerships with other institutions that allows teachers visit those institutions to learn based on observation. In addition to this there is also the option of holding off site training through workshops and seminars.
However, it has been suggested that for best result workshops and other off site training techniques require resources to follow up with teachers during the regular school year (Elmore & Burney, 1997). These are some the strategies that can be implemented in ensuring teachers are well equipped to instruct students to meet the curriculum needs.
Elmore, R. F. & Burney, D. (1997). Investing in Teacher Learning: Staff Development and Instructional Improvement in Community School District #2, New York City. Web.
Linn, R. L. & Herman, J. L. (1997). No Child left behind Issue Brief: A Guide to Standards Based Assessment. Retrieved from https://www.ecs.org/
Marx, R. W., Blumenfeld, P. C., Krajcik, J. S., Fishman, B., Soloway, E., Geier, R. & Tal, R. T. (2004). Inquiry Based Science in the Middle Grades: Assessment of Learning in Urban Systemic Reform. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41, pp. 1063-1080.
Steiner, J. (n.d.). Why have a Standards Based Curriculum and what are the Implications for the teaching-learning process? Web.
Supovitz, J. A. & Turner, H. M. (2000). The Effects of Professional Development on Science Teaching Practices and Classroom Culture. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37, pp. 963-980.