ETS Report Offers Clues on How to Raise Science Achievement
Some science teaching strategies more effective than others
- Jason Baran
- Jason Baran
Princeton, N.J. (June 15, 2009) —
A new report by Educational Testing Service's (ETS) Policy Information Center notes that the science achievement of U.S. students has been flat for a decade, and offers clues that teachers may be able to use to increase the science achievement of their students.
The science achievement of U.S. students is becoming increasingly important for our nation’s ability to compete successfully in the world economy. Exploring What Works in Science Instruction: A Look at the Eighth-Grade Science Classroom, written by Henry Braun, Richard Coley, Yue Jia, and Catherine Trapani, uses sophisticated statistical analyses to mine the data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to identify aspects of U.S. eighth-grade science classrooms that appear to make a difference in students’ science scores. They examine student and teacher characteristics along with teachers’ instructional strategies, and describe how these teacher practices vary across different types of U.S. schools.
The study identified several instructional strategies that are linked with higher science scores:
- students reading a science textbook
- students doing hands-on science activities
- students writing long answers to science test questions and assessments
- students talking about measurements and results from hands-on activities
- students working with others on a science activity or project
Some other instructional strategies were found to increase science achievement when used in moderation:
- students taking a science test
- teacher doing a science demonstration
- students discussing science in the news
- students reading a book or magazine about science
- students preparing a written science report
Finally, two teacher practices were negatively related to students’ science scores — that is, the more they are used, the less likely the students are to do well in science:
- students giving an oral science report
- students using library resources for science
Because teacher practices that make a difference must make a difference for all of our students, the authors examined the access of minority and disadvantaged students to these instructional practices. While many of the strategies were effective for all students, several were identified that could help close the achievement gap. For example, two effective practices — teachers doing science demonstrations and students discussing science in the news — were less likely to be used for minority students. Therefore, increasing the use of these practices among minority students might help close the achievement gap. On the other hand, one negative practice — students giving an oral science report — was more likely to occur in more disadvantaged schools. Thus, curtailing this practice in such schools may pay dividends in closing the achievement gap.
The report supplies a rich description of the eighth-grade science classroom and its teachers, and the authors hope it will stimulate discussions on how instructional practices are implemented in classrooms and on the contexts in which they are employed.
Download Exploring What Works in Science Instruction: A Look at the Eighth-Grade Science Classroom for free; or purchase copies for $15 (prepaid) by writing to the Policy Information Center, Educational Testing Service, MS 19-R, Rosedale Road, Princeton, NJ 08541-0001; calling (609) 734-5212; or e-mailing email@example.com.
About the ETS Policy Information Center
The ETS Policy Information Center identifies the education issues that are most challenging to educators and policymakers and presents data and information that enhance understanding and engender ideas for improvement. The Center’s scope covers education issues ranging from preschool through adulthood. Topics usually concentrate on education quality and focus on individual, group and institutional performance and participation in education.
At nonprofit ETS, we advance quality and equity in education for people worldwide by creating assessments based on rigorous research. ETS serves individuals, educational institutions and government agencies by providing customized solutions for teacher certification, English language learning, and elementary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as conducting education research, analysis and policy studies. Founded in 1947, ETS develops, administers and scores more than 50 million tests annually — including the TOEFL® and TOEIC® tests, the GRE® test and The Praxis Series™ assessments — in more than 180 countries, at over 9,000 locations worldwide.
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