Science education reform movements have long urged the use of inquiry methods in all science instruction. More recently, standards and accountability reform efforts have emphasized measuring and improving student science achievement. Researchers have questioned the alignment and balance between these reforms (Lane, 2004; Yeh, 2001). This study addresses issues faced by secondary science teachers as they simultaneously meet the goals of these reform movements. Mixed methods were used to answer the questions: 1) Can a teacher's beliefs and practices regarding inquiry teaching methods be correlated with his/her assessment practices?; 2) What item types are most commonly employed by teachers that use an inquiry pedagogy?; and 3) What assessment strategies do teachers describe to assess scientific inquiry? Secondary science teachers, mostly from one western state, responded to a survey (N = 83) and provided a teacher-made classroom assessment (n = 30). Survey responses were used to assign a teacher inquiry score based on described frequency of pedagogical practices supporting or detracting from an inquiry focus. A rubric based on cognitive complexity was used to determine a numeric value for each test item with the sum of item scores providing an overall assessment score. Using regression analysis and Pearson's correlation this study found a moderate correlation (r = 0.0447, p = 0.0133) between teacher inquiry scores and assessment scores. A modest correlation was also established between teacher inquiry levels (high, medium, and low categories assigned using cut scores) and overall assessment scores using an ANOVA (DF=2, p = 0.0262) and Tukey-Kramer pairwise analysis (low to medium p = 0.046; low to high p = 0.057). Correlations indicate that teachers are able to simultaneously focus on inquiry in pedagogical and assessment practices. Cognitively complex items used by teachers with an inquiry focus measure the same cognitive skills as scientific inquiry. Survey responses to open-ended questions provided additional qualitative data supporting the study's findings. Respondents reported challenges in creating assessments that measure student scientific inquiry competency, but also noted that labs, observation and questioning, and performance assessments are useful in measuring inquiry skills.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Biology



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assessment, cognitive complexity, inquiry, secondary science teachers, science education reform

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Biology Commons