Assessment - looking at children’s work in science

Teacher observations 

Science, by its nature, will involve children in practical investigative activities. Consequently assessing children’s work will be carried out while the pupils are undertaking investigations and is dependent on observation by the teacher of children as they undertake investigative work. Observations may be made as children undertake activities or investigations, engage in discussion, plan experiments or interact with other pupils and the teacher. Although watching children during practical science tasks will provide information about their grasp of scientific knowledge, observations are particularly valuable in assessing the extent to which children have developed appropriate scientific skills of working and attitudes.

Some of the details of children’s learning may emerge in an incidental or spontaneous way. At other times teachers may decide to look out for particular behaviours, abilities or interactions. For example the teacher may choose to concentrate on the way in which children identify variables as part of planning an investigation. It may be helpful in advance to identify the expected outcomes of the learning situation. This will facilitate a more structured assessment and will enhance the observations made.

Much of the information obtained through the teacher’s observations will not be written down but noting significant aspects of some children’s progress or gaps in their scientific knowledge and/or skills may help in the planning of future work for the individual, group or class. Notes might be kept in a simple notebook or diary or on a sheet for the topic, group or class involved. Teacher’s observations complement other assessment tools so as to produce a much more comprehensive view of the child’s learning in science.