Current assessment approaches are inadequate for determining how well our students are developing sophisticated inquiry skills in science – a key 21st century capability for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. Research has documented that sophisticated, higher-order thinking skills related to complex cognition, inquiry processes, formulating scientific explanations, communicating scientific understanding, and approaches to novel situations, are difficult to measure with multiple choice or even with constructed-response paper-and-pencil items (Resnick & Resnick, 1992; Quellmalz & Haertel, 2004; NRC, 2006). These items also demonstrate limited sensitivity to discrepancies between inquiry and non-inquiry based science instruction (Haertel, Lash, Javitz, & Quellmalz 2006; Quellmalz, Kreikemeier, Haydel-DeBarger, & Haertel, 2007). For example, Quellmalz et al (2007) report that, on paper-and-pencil tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS), and New Standards Science Reference Exams (NSSRE), inquiry is not measured effectively. While some of these tests involve formats other than paper-and-pencil, the investigators note that, “even the hands-on performance tasks in these large-scale science tests are highly structured and relatively short (15-40 minutes), truncating the investigation strategies that can be measured” (Quellmalz, et al, 2007, page 1). Thus, despite the increasing focus of worldwide science standards on inquiry, current assessments continue to demonstrate misalignment and validity issues in the measurement of this domain.
Citation: Clarke-Midura, J., Code, J., Mayrath, M., Dede, C (2012). Thinking outside the bubble: Virtual Performance Assessments for Measuring Inquiry Learning. In M. Mayrath, J. Clarke-Midura, D. Robinson (Eds.) Technology Based Assessment for 21st Century Skills: Theoretical and Practical Implications from Modern Research. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.