Development of a responsive and constructivist portfolio-based assessment of a writing-to-learn curriculum in introductory astronomy: A case study

French, Mary (1999) Development of a responsive and constructivist portfolio-based assessment of a writing-to-learn curriculum in introductory astronomy: A case study. Doctoral thesis, New Mexico State University.


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As the primary evaluator of a National Science Foundation grant-supported project to develop an introductory, writing-to-learn-based astronomy curriculum, my goal was to help design and test materials that would meet the learning needs of non-science majors, especially women and minorities, and promote their science literacy. My immediate problem was to create a context-sensitive assessment that engages teachers' goals and objectives while reconciling these with the diverse needs, interests, and abilities of students. To that end, I developed a responsive or stakeholder-focused constructivist assessment based upon Guba and Lincoln's fourth generation evaluation. Both responsive and constructivist, my-approach reflects recent developments in sociocognitive theories of writing and learning, especially those by Linda Flower. Flower focuses on the literate act or learning task, such as writing a summary, as the basic unit of analysis. Not the act itself but the "site" at which it occurs is of main interest. This is where the tension between the private "self" and the public "other" provides an opportunity for meaning to evolve as students explore alternate writing and learning strategies through inner acts of negotiation. Because the new astronomy curriculum centered around students keeping a learning log or process portfolio, portfolios afforded the ideal documentary evidence of the site at which students negotiate meanings and strategies. The portfolio-based assessment, therefore, centers upon having evaluators or teacher-researchers identify and interpret how students represent learning tasks to themselves and develop strategies to complete these tasks. Researchers next compare and judge their own interpretations of these behaviors according to the pre-ordinate objectives of the curriculum. Then the key stakeholders (i.e., evaluators, students, and teachers), through hermeneutic and dialectic interchanges, reconstruct or recondition these pre-ordmate evaluation criteria, transforming them from external "top-down" criteria to context-sensitive "bottom-up" ones. This reconditioning of the external criteria to a specific classroom context results in triadic consilience--a coherent, synergistic unity among the curriculum's theory, pedagogy, and assessment. With each assessment cycle, therefore, the pedagogy becomes more responsive to all the stakeholders and more grounded in its context.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Astronomy Education Research
Depositing User: Mr Saeed Salimpour
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2017 12:00
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2018 09:11

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