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  5. # ASEchat 136 How Should Practical Science Be Assessed?

# ASEchat 136 How Should Practical Science Be Assessed?

Summary of #ASEchat 136 with @hrogerson 

Before the twitter chat started there was a discussion between @hrogerson, @agittner and @viciascience about trying to move the debate forward after #ASechat number 110 

The chat also followed a presentation at the ASE conference by Tim Oates from Cambridge Assessment about the issues around assessing practical science and @hrogerson made reference to this by tweeting images of the slides from his presentation. 

The first point made was one that Tim Oates raised: the cost of good assessment of practical work. @Viciascience asked: “how much should we expect to pay to educate someone to A level science? Budget for prac work? Budget for prac assessment?” @agittner replied “The cost goes back to an issue from some moons ago..our current world standing in science is worth keeping”. 

@TFScientist wondered if the best model would be for teachers from other schools to come and carryout the assessment, @hrogerson though this would be expensive and @monkeyofscience wondered if other schools would be willing to do this. 

Comparisons were made to oral examinations in languages, drama and musical instrument examinations. All of which assess practical work. @agittner: “teacher, clip board, video, sample to examiner” 

An alternative suggested was assessing practical through written examinations, but @amUYSEG pointed out that “Awarding Bodies will need examiners to write high quality questions based on prac skills - not necessarily an easy task” and @TFScientist pointed out that “A written exam just proves a child can pass a written exam. Shows no dexterity or manual skills”. 

@amUYSEG thought that model 4 from Tim Oates was most likely to be accepted by examination boards: 

Students building up a portfolio with evidence of practical work and investigations was mentioned throughout the ASEchat session. @TFScientist first brought this up: “Cant we have a practical requirement (evidence of prac skills) for the qualification, bt does not contribute to grade?” @hrogerson pointed out Tim Oates ideas along these lines: 

@viciascience was concerned by the proposal to report practical grade separately. @emmajwilki: “I like this idea too. Can't qualify without it but won't inflate grade.” And @teachnologytotea was keen to have the evidence in a range of formats: which could be electronic, photos of work, vid recordings and oral discussions. @rjpritchard said “Believe Ofsted have been pushing for a lab book style coursework component. Art can have sketchbooks, why not similar for Science?” @viciascience: concluded with “reduce marking load by not grading it.All students submit lab book with evidence of 25 activities,pass/fail” When asked how he would ensure the students had reached the required standard @viciascience replied: “Not bothered. Want students to show what experienced rather than mastered when it comes to procedures.” 

Throughout the discussion @oboelizzy stressed more general questions about the purpose of practical assessment. Asking: “what particular practical skills are important? is it more important to understand and apply them then be able to do them?” and stating that “we have a fundamental issue behind this we are not looking at who is our sci curric aimed at and why”. Points that get to the heart of the debate around practical assessment and one that Tim Oates alluded to in he ASE address to the 2014 conference. Although @viciascience had a response to @obeolizzy: 3 things - ability to manipulate, ability to reason scientifically, ability to plan and do investigation #ASEChat 

The next step in the debate seems to be the viability of the lab book as a way to assess practical work.