Assessment and reporting

Assessment in Junior Cycle Science

Assessment in education involves gathering, interpreting and using information about the processes and outcomes of learning. It takes different forms and can be used in a variety of ways, such as to record and report achievement, to determine appropriate routes for learners to take through a differentiated curriculum, or to identify specific areas of difficulty or strength for a given learner. While different techniques may be employed for formative, diagnostic and summative purposes, the focus of the assessment and reporting is on the improvement of student learning. To do this it must fully reflect the aim of the curriculum.

 

The junior cycle places a strong emphasis on assessment as part of the learning process. This approach requires a more varied approach to assessment in ensuring that the assessment method or methods chosen are fit for purpose, timely and relevant to the students. Assessment in junior cycle science will optimise the opportunity for students to become reflective and active participants in their learning and for teachers to support this. This rests upon the provision for learners of opportunities to negotiate success criteria against which the quality of their work can be judged by peer, self, and teacher assessment; and upon the quality of the focused feedback they get in support of their learning.

 

Providing focused feedback on their learning to students is a critical component of high-quality assessment and a key factor in building students’ capacity to manage their own learning and their motivation to stick with a complex task or problem. Assessment is most effective when it moves beyond marks and grades and reporting focuses not just on how the student has done in the past but on the next steps for further learning. This approach will ensure that assessment takes place as close as possible to the point of learning. Final assessment still has a role to play, but is only one element of a broader approach to assessment.

 

Essentially, the purpose of assessment and reporting at this stage of education is to support learning. Parents/guardians should be given a comprehensive picture of student learning. Linking classroom assessment and other assessment with a new system of reporting that culminates in the awarding of the Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA) will offer parents/guardians a clear and broad picture of their child’s learning journey over the three years of junior cycle. To support, this teachers and schools will have access to an Assessment Toolkit. Along with the guide to the Subject Learning and Assessment Review (SLAR) process, the Assessment Toolkit will include learning, teaching and assessment support material, including:

  •   formative assessment
  •   planning for and designing assessment
  •   ongoing assessments for classroom use
  •   judging student work – looking at expectations for students and features of quality
  •   reporting to parents and students
  •   thinking about assessment: ideas, research and reflections
  •   a glossary.

The contents of the Assessment Toolkit will include a range of assessment supports, advice and guidelines that will enable schools and teachers to engage with the new assessment system and reporting arrangements in an informed way, with confidence and clarity. 

Assessment for the JCPA  

Over the three years of junior cycle, students will have many opportunities to enjoy and learn science. They will work as a scientist as they formulate scientific questions and hypotheses, initiate research, plan and conduct investigations, process and analyse data and information, evaluate evidence to draw valid conclusions, and report and reflect on the process. Students will collaborate as they prepare scientific communications for a variety of purposes and audiences. They will learn about, and make informed decisions about, their own health and wellbeing, and about science-related issues of social and global importance. Through these activities they will develop their science knowledge, understanding, skills, and values, thereby achieving the learning outcomes across the strands.

The Classroom-Based Assessments, outlined in Table 5 below, link to important aspects of that development and relate to priorities for learning and teaching such as investigating, and communicating in science, while at the same time developing their knowledge and understanding of science, which are vital to working like a scientist. Students need to develop a sense of what is appropriate for scientific investigation and research, plan and conduct investigations and research topics, process and analyse data and information, draw evidence-based conclusions, evaluate the process, and prepare scientific communications. The Classroom-Based Assessments offer students the chance to demonstrate their achievements as creators of scientific research reports by selecting a topic or problem to investigate.

 

CBA

Format

Student preparation Completion of the assessment SLAR1 Meeting

Extended experimental investigation (EEI)

Reports which may be presented in a wide range of formats.

Students will, over a three-week period; formulate a scientific hypothesis, plan and conduct an experimental investigation to test their hypotheses, generate and analyse primary data, and reflect on the process, with support/guidance by the teacher. End of second year. One review meeting.

Science in society investigation (SSI)

Reports which may be presented in a wide range of formats.

Student will, over a three-week period: research a socio-scientific issue, analyse the information/secondary data collected, and evaluate the claims and opinions studied and draw evidence-based conclusions about the issues involved, with support/guidance by the teacher.

End of first term or early in the second term in third year.

One review meeting.
 

 

1Subject Learning and Assessment Review

 

The presentation formats for each of the above Classroom-Based Assessments can include the following (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • a hand-written/typed report
  • mulitmodal presentation
  • webpage
  • model building
  • podcasts

 

Students should receive a copy of the features of quality as early as possible, so that they are aware of what they need to do to generate work of the highest possible standard. It is also acceptable, and in some respects encouraged, that the evidence of learning presented for the Classroom-Based Assessment could be used as part of a student's entry to a local or national science fair. 

Assessing the Classroom-Based Assessments  

More detailed material on assessment for reporting in junior cycle science, setting out details of the practical arrangements related to assessment of the Classroom-Based Assessments, will be available in a separate Assessment Specification and Guidelines. This will include, for example, the suggested length and formats for student pieces of work, support in using ‘on-balance’ judgement in relation to the features of quality. The NCCA’s Assessment Toolkit will also include substantial resource material for use and reference in ongoing classroom assessment of junior cycle science, as well as providing a detailed account of the Subject Learning and Assessment Review process.

The Assessment Task  

The Assessment Task is a written task completed by students during class time, which is not marked by the class teacher, but is sent to the State Examinations Commission for marking. It will be allocated 10% of the marks used to determine the grade awarded by the SEC. The Assessment Task is specified by the NCCA and is related to the learning outcomes on which the second Classroom-Based Assessment is based.  The content and format of the Assessment Task may vary from year to year.

Inclusive assessment practices  

Where a school judges that a student has a specific physical or learning difficulty, reasonable accommodations may be put in place to remove as far as possible the impact of the disability on the student’s performance in Classroom-Based Assessments. The accommodations (e.g. the support provided by a Special Needs Assistant or the support of assistive technologies) should be line with the arrangements the school has put in place to support the student’s learning throughout the year. 

Final Assessment  

There will be one examination paper at a common level, set by the State Examinations Commission (SEC). The examination will be two hours in duration and will take place at the end of third year. During this assessment students will be required to engage with, demonstrate comprehension of, and provide written responses to stimulus material. The content and format of the final examination may vary from year to year. In any year, the learning outcomes to be assessed will constitute a sample of the outcomes from the tables of learning outcomes.