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Attitudes of Children and Parents to Science Testing and Assessment

Attitudes of Children and Parents to Science Testing and Assessment

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Published by Wellcome Trust
This research report was commissioned by the Trust in January 2009 to provide information on parents' and pupils' views of testing and assessment in science at Key Stage 2 (year 6, aged 10-11). The report is the first to look at the attitudes and concerns of children and parents on the way science is assessed in primary school. Around 1000 school children in England and Wales took part in the survey, which was designed with the involvement of children themselves in collaboration with researchers from Queen’s University Belfast.

According to the findings, the vast majority of children surveyed found science assessment useful and liked to know how well they were performing. However most preferred the use of end-of-topic testing and investigations to assess their performance, rather than SATs testing. This is a valuable opportunity to use research evidence to inform policy discussions and decisions, as well as informing any future work by the Trust related to assessment.
This research report was commissioned by the Trust in January 2009 to provide information on parents' and pupils' views of testing and assessment in science at Key Stage 2 (year 6, aged 10-11). The report is the first to look at the attitudes and concerns of children and parents on the way science is assessed in primary school. Around 1000 school children in England and Wales took part in the survey, which was designed with the involvement of children themselves in collaboration with researchers from Queen’s University Belfast.

According to the findings, the vast majority of children surveyed found science assessment useful and liked to know how well they were performing. However most preferred the use of end-of-topic testing and investigations to assess their performance, rather than SATs testing. This is a valuable opportunity to use research evidence to inform policy discussions and decisions, as well as informing any future work by the Trust related to assessment.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Wellcome Trust on Sep 21, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/30/2012

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Once the data from the surveys had been collated the adult researchers had a
final meeting with all four CRAGs. This provided an opportunity for each CRAG to
explore the data from the survey conducted with their own peers and also for all
four CRAGs to work together to compare the views of primary and secondary
children and the views of children in England and Wales.

The CRAGs were asked first to explore the views of their peers in relation to what
would constitute an ‘ideal science assessment’. They were provided with cards
containing a wide range of qualitative comments from the survey and asked to
cluster these into groups as they saw fit. They then ‘named’ each of these
clusters thereby drawing out key themes. The salient themes arising from this
activity were that the ‘ideal science assessment’ should: focus on end of topic
rather than end of year tests; involve ‘children’s choice’ acknowledging that the
best type of assessment might vary ‘from child to child’; and be ‘fun and
engaging’ (associated largely with assessment via investigations, projects and
competitions). It was also noted that the children who completed the survey had
suggested that assessments should involve both comments and marks. One
group explained this with the following statement:

“Marks tell you how you’ve done...comments tell you why”

Each CRAG was then provided with a summary of the main findings from their
survey and asked to design a poster outlining the following:

• What surprised you about the findings? Why?
• What didn’t surprise you? Why?
• Is there anything extra you would like to find out from the survey results?

The CRAGs’ interpretation of the findings provided valuable insight. For example
the survey indicated that while most children liked science it ranked behind
subjects like PE and maths. The children in the CRAGs were not surprised by this
finding and explained it with comments such as:

“You could like it [science] but like other things more”

The survey indicated that science was seen as the least difficult subject when
compared with English and maths. Again the children were not surprised by this
result and suggested that this may be due to pressure, from school and home, to
succeed in English and maths. The children also provided some insight into the
finding that survey respondents viewed assessment as building confidence. They
suggested that this may be due to teacher support. They also provided valuable
insight into the findings regarding assessment and ‘wanting to learn more’. They
interpreted this to mean that the pressure to do well in tests made children want
to learn (or know) more to ‘do better in the next test’ rather than associating it with
a straightforward desire to learn more about science. Furthermore they connected

Wellcome Trust

School of Education, Queen’s University Belfast

September 2010

36

this pressure and desire to do better ‘next time’ to the reported increased
confidence associated with assessment. Finally some of the CRAGs noticed and
interpreted some gender differences. They explained that girls were more in
favour of tests because:

“They [girls] like to work harder”

and:

“Boys are afraid of not being cool or doing badly”

In the final interpretation activity children representing each CRAG formed mixed
CRAG teams and participated in a quiz to predict comparative findings from the
four surveys. The children by and large predicted these findings correctly.
Furthermore they connected most differences in findings to the existence of SATs
in England and lack of SATs in Wales (including both ‘negative’ and ‘positive’
aspects of SATs).

4.6 Summary

The methodology employed for the children’s element of the research drew on a
children’s rights-based approach to research with children. In this project this
involved primarily involving children as co-researchers through establishing and
working with four children’s research advisory groups (CRAGs). Following
capacity building sessions on the substantive issues associated with the research
questions, the CRAGs worked with the adult researchers in the design and
development of the research instrument (an online questionnaire) to be used with
other children and in the interpretation of the research findings. The children’s
rights-based approach was also applied to the design of the online questionnaire
which sought to actively engage children as research subjects. This research
instrument created a safe and inclusive space in which children were assisted in
forming and expressing their views and where they were assured their views
would be ‘listened to’. The research team has worked actively to ensure that
children’s views have been taken seriously throughout the research process and
that the views of the children who participated in the survey have had a significant
influence on the report’s recommendations. A significant final step in this process
relates to the degree of influence the children’s views will have: the extent to
which their views will be taken into consideration by those in a position to effect
change.

Wellcome Trust

School of Education, Queen’s University Belfast

September 2010

37

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