Project 2061 Receives Grant for Student Science Assessments

AAAS’s Project 2061 has been awarded a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop new tools for finding out how students build their knowledge of energy concepts over time and for helping teachers diagnose their students’ learning difficulties.

Acknowledging the importance of energy education for today’s students, the department’s Institute of Education Sciences gave high marks to the new study, which is one of only 26 funded this year through the competitive education research grants program.

“A strong foundation of knowledge about energy is essential,” said Cari F. Herrmann Abell, senior research associate for Project 2061, the long-term AAAS initiative to improve the science literacy of all Americans. “Whether choosing which cars we drive or thinking about national energy policy issues, understanding basic energy concepts can help everyone make more well-informed decisions.” Energy also plays an important role in other subjects in the school curriculum such as life and earth sciences, said Herrmann Abell, the leader of the study, anticipating that the new assessments will be helpful in those areas as well. AAAS’s Project 2061 has been awarded a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop new tools for finding out how students build their knowledge of energy concepts over time and for helping teachers diagnose their students’ learning difficulties.

Acknowledging the importance of energy education for today’s students, the department’s Institute of Education Sciences gave high marks to the new study, which is one of only 26 funded this year through the competitive education research grants program.

“A strong foundation of knowledge about energy is essential,” said Cari F. Herrmann Abell, senior research associate for Project 2061, the long-term AAAS initiative to improve the science literacy of all Americans. “Whether choosing which cars we drive or thinking about national energy policy issues, understanding basic energy concepts can help everyone make more well-informed decisions.” Energy also plays an important role in other subjects in the school curriculum such as life and earth sciences, said Herrmann Abell, the leader of the study, anticipating that the new assessments will be helpful in those areas as well.

Cari F. Herrmann Abell

Cari F. Herrmann Abell

Over the next four years, Project 2061 will design three assessments for students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The tests will evaluate students’ knowledge of the different forms of energy, energy transformation, energy transfer, energy dissipation, and conservation of energy. Teachers will have the option to administer the multiple-choice tests in either online or print formats.

“Our goal is to make the new tests more comprehensive in their coverage of energy topics than anything currently available,” says Herrmann Abell. “We also intend to make the tests as diagnostic as possible so that teachers can use test results to help their students learn more.”

Each test item will be designed to reveal misconceptions students might have about energy while also requiring them to engage in important scientific practices such as making predictions, explaining energy phenomena, and interpreting tables, charts, and diagrams. In addition to the tests themselves, the project will also develop support materials to help teachers and others administer the tests and interpret the results.

Project 2061 has been working in the area of assessment research and development for more than a decade. Supported by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, Project 2061 recently completed an online bank of more than 700 test questions in 16 science topics for middle school earth, life, and physical science and the nature of science.

“This new project builds on our previous work by enabling us to develop test questions for elementary and high school students,” Herrmann Abell said. “With items testing students at all three levels, we should be able to generate new insights into the progression of learning about energy across grades.”

Over the course of the study, the Project 2061 research team will develop the test questions and tests using procedures established in its earlier work. Each new test item and the three grade-level assessments will be pilot- and field-tested with students, and a complete statistical analysis of the data will be used to ensure that the tests are valid measures of what students know about energy.

Links
Learn more about AAAS’s Project 2061
Visit the AAAS Project 2061 Science Assessment Website