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APU Science Report for Teachers 6: Practical Testing at Ages 11, 13, and 15

This APU report for teachers describes the aspect of the science surveys where the science project broke new ground. The reason for including practical tasks was the emphasis placed on practical work in science, requiring a range of skills.

It was considered that science performance could not be adequately assessed on paper alone. Thus three of the six main categories of the assessment framework involved students interacting with real objects and equipment.

These categories were: ‘Observation’, ‘Use of apparatus and measuring instruments’ and ‘Performance of investigations’. This report discusses the different ways in which performance in these categories was assessed, how the test items were administered, the testing organised and the results reported.

At age 11, observation was assessed, as for the older age groups, using a ‘circus’ of items laid out with the equipment required at various places in a room. Students moved from one ‘station’ to another to use each set of materials in turn. They were watched by a test administrator who also demonstrated a few items involving more complex events.

At age 11, ‘Use of apparatus and measuring instruments’ was assessed by presenting students with a short task involving using the equipment during the individual practical investigations. For ‘Performance of Investigations’, individual students were given equipment and a problem explained by a test administrator who watched and recorded as the student tackled the problem.


Preface: Background to the APU science surveys

1. Introduction – what this booklet is about

2. Observation

3. Use of apparatus and measuring instruments

4. Organisation of the circus

5. Performance of investigations

6. Administration of the individual investigations

7. The involvement and recruitment of teachers as testers

8. The training of testers

9. Provision of equipment

10. A commentary on the practical tests

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