27 SES 05 A, Subject Contents in Curriculum and Assessment
The use of national tests may influence teaching and teachers’ choices of educational content (c.f. Au 2007; Lundqvist, Lidar & Almqvist 2012). Even though it is important to note that the relation between national tests and educational practices is complex (Cimbricz 2002), studies have shown that the use of standardized tests often influence teachers’ selection of teaching content (Au 2007, Orpwood 2007). All students in year nine in the Swedish compulsory school take a national test in biology, physics or chemistry. One of the ambitions with these tests is to provide a guide for teachers to use when interpreting the curriculum.
This paper is part of a project where we are interested in questions concerning if and how the use of the national tests influence teachers’ teaching practice, including their selection of content (Lundqvist, Lidar & Almqvist 2012). From a pragmatic perspective on teaching and learning (C.f. Lundqvist, Almqvist & Östman 2012), we investigate what educational content the tests offer, how teachers perceive the tests and how they think that the new tests will influence their own teaching and assessment practices. The purpose of this paper is to analyze and discuss the content included in the national tests in biology, physics and chemistry and the potential consequences they may have for teaching and learning in science education.
In many countries’ school systems – in Europe as well as in other parts of the world - and in different school subjects both in Sweden and elsewhere the use of standardized tests is not a new phenomenon. The idea of standardized dates goes back at least to the first part of the 20th century (Lundahl 2009). In Swedish science education, however, the national tests were given for the first time in 2009 and one of the ambitions with the introduction of the national tests in science education was to provide an aid in teachers’ development of their teaching and to support equal and fair assessment and grading of the students’ knowledge.
The Swedish national curriculum for science education contains the goals the students should reach, a selection of central content and guidelines for grading, but they are held on a general level and it is not obvious or given beforehand exactly what content that should be regarded as relevant to teach and assess in science education (C.f. Östman, 1996). In a review of international research on scientific literacy, Douglas Roberts (2007) shows that there is a strong polarization between two different visions for science education. In principle the two orientations privilege in different ways which content that should be taught:
- The students should learn to use basic scientific concepts, models, theories and skills in discussions and investigations of the world.
- The students should begin the work with complex authentic problems where scientific knowledge is used.
These two visions of scientific literacy can be used to describe and discuss the differences that exist with regard to the content of science education (C.f. Fensham 1988). The Swedish curriculum for biology, chemistry and physics stipulates that all children in compulsory school should learn to handle questions and problems within both of these domains. In light of this, the question dealt with in this paper concerns the content included in the national tests in biology, physics and chemistry and potential consequences the selection of content may have for teaching and learning.
Au, Wayne (2007). High-stake testing and curricular control: A qualitative metasynthesis. Educational researcher, 36: 258. Cimbricz, Sandra (2002): State-Mandated Testing and Teachers’ Beliefs and Practice. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 10(2). Fensham, Peter J. (1988) Familiar but different: Some dilemmas and new directions in science education. In Peter J. Fensham (Ed.), Developments and dilemmas in science education. In London: London: Routledge Falmer. Linder, Cedric, Östman, Leif, Roberts, Douglas A, Wickman, Per-Olof, Erickson, Gaalen L & McKinnon, Allen (2010). Exploring the Landscape of Scientific Literacy. London: Routledge. Lundahl, Christian (2007). Varför nationella prov? Framväxt, dilemman, möjligheter. [Why national tests? Emergence, dilemmas, opportunities]. Lund: Studentlitteratur. Lundqvist, Eva, Almqvist, Jonas & Östman, Leif (2012): Institutional traditions in teachers’ manners of teaching. Cultural studies of Science Education, 7, 111-127. Lundqvist, Eva, Lidar, Malena & Almqvist, Jonas (2012). National tests and teachers’ practice. Paper presented at ECER (European Conference on Educational Research), 18-21 September in Càdiz, Spain. Orpwood, Graham (2007): Assessing scientific literacy: Threats and opportunities. In Cedric Linder, Leif Östman & Per-Olof Wickman (Eds.): Promoting scientific literacy: Science education research in transaction. Proceedings of the Linnaeus Tercentenary Symposium (pp. 120-129). Uppsala: Uppsala University. Roberts, Douglas (1988). What counts as science education? I Peter Fensham (Ed), Development and dilemmas in science education (pp. 27-54). London: The Falmer Press. Roberts, Douglas A. (2007). Scientific literacy/science literacy. I S. K. Abell & N. G. Lederman (Eds.). Handbook of research on science education (pp. 729-780). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Östman, Leif (1996). Discourses, discursive meanings and socialization in chemistry education.Journal of Curriculum Studies, (28)1, 37-55.
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