By Kate Gannon The new year marks the start of the new school year and it’s time for science students to find out how much they’ve learnt in the past year.
In addition to the annual Science and Technology Standards Assessment (STA), students will also be required to take the Science Skills Test (SST), which is an instrument that measures students’ ability to communicate and engage with others.
The STA will also assess students’ knowledge of their field of study, and the SRT will measure their fluency in reading and writing.
But where to start?
In the past, students would take the STA in January and take the SST in May.
But that was a bit of a risk, as the SCT and the STA are not administered in the same year, so students would have to wait until August to take them.
“The STA is the perfect test for students who want to see if they’ve got the knowledge, and to know if they can use it in the classroom,” says Dr Julia Tabor from the Department of Education and Skills at the University of Western Australia.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to take part in a science course that they know and understand, but which is not too demanding or too challenging for them.”
The STA is an easy way to measure the students’ scientific knowledge In the STA, students are asked to complete the same five questions over and over again for a short period of time.
At the end of the test, they get an answer, and are asked how much it matters to them.
If students get an ‘A’, that means they have a fair amount of scientific knowledge.
If they get a ‘B’, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve mastered it all.
For students who don’t get an SST result, they are asked a second time to complete their answer.
This is known as a ‘second-level’ test.
“We think that this is the best way to assess the students knowledge of science and the kind of skills that they’re likely to use in the future,” says Tabor.
For example, a student who takes the STA might take it again in July and again in August, and another student might take the ST after October. “
Students should be given the opportunity to do this test as often as they want to and they should get a fair chance to do it.”
For example, a student who takes the STA might take it again in July and again in August, and another student might take the ST after October.
“In that sense, it’s the best test to measure students’ level of science knowledge and skills,” says SBS chief executive officer Tim O’Brien.
“They’re also able to assess students ability to use the SSS to communicate science and their ability to think about science in a way that is not overly challenging.”
In the SAT, students will be asked to repeat the same questions over a number of minutes.
For this test, students can choose to use a different tool.
For example: the STA could be used to assess their understanding of the concept of time and time’s relative importance; students who use the STA would be asked if they understood the importance of using the time measure when comparing different time periods.
The SRT could be a good tool for students looking to use it to ask themselves: is my understanding of time a fair or inaccurate?
Is the importance that I place on it consistent with the importance I place it on for other things?
“We would think of this test not as a science test, but as a test to assess knowledge and knowledge-sharing skills, particularly with other students,” says O’Brian.
“You could think of the STT as a way of assessing students’ fluency with language and communication skills, or their ability in social skills.
It’s a good way to get a sense of the students level of knowledge in a classroom setting.”
The Science Skills Tests are also administered by the Department for Education and the Skills.
Students taking the SFT could take it for the first time on January 10, 2019 and then again in February.
The students who took the STA will have the opportunity for a second round of tests on March 12, 2019.
“I think the Science SRT is the one that is the most challenging,” says Kellem Lomax from the department of education and skills.
“Because it’s not a standardised test, it doesn’t give a fair score, so we’re hoping that students can get a more realistic score.”
“We know that we have a strong emphasis on science in our schools,” says Lomox.
“So for many students, the STA is not a particularly useful test.
But we think the SAST is the only test that will give a more objective picture of their science knowledge.”