Constructivism and the use of performance assessment in science: A comparative study of beliefs among preservice and inservice teachers

Date of Completion

January 1997


Education, Tests and Measurements|Education, Sciences|Education, Curriculum and Instruction




Reform efforts in science education stress the importance of preservice and inservice teacher education in curriculum, instruction, and assessment. A change in current student assessment practices is seen as the catalyst in the reform of curriculum and instruction. Recommended for assessment of the proposed inquiry-based science programs are performance-based assessments (National Research Council, 1996).^ The constructivist philosophy, the foundation for these reform efforts, proposes that knowledge acquisition by the learner is a result of the interaction between what is brought to the learning situation and what is experienced while in it. Literature supports the use of constructivist-based instructional strategies for preservice and inservice teacher education (American Federation of Teachers, National Council on Measurement in Education, and National Education Association, 1990). Literature also provides support for the importance of teacher beliefs in relation to the successful transfer of these instructional strategies (Keegan, 1992; Nespor, 1987). There is not supporting evidence related to constructivist instructional strategies and teacher beliefs transferring to the use of performance assessment.^ This study identified whether preservice and inservice teachers differed with respect to their beliefs about constructivist-based learning strategies and performance assessment. It also identified whether teacher beliefs held about constructivist-based learning strategies were related to the construction of assessments they developed for use in their classrooms. Education majors enrolled in a Northeastern university's assessment course and inservice teachers from three Northeast public school districts participated in this study.^ Results of a 36-item belief survey, administered to preservice and inservice teachers, and a 10-item checklist, used to score assessment examples provided by the teachers, concluded that attitudes toward constructivist-based learning strategies is a predictor for group membership with the inservice teacher group. There is a correlation between attitudes toward constructivism and attitudes related to the benefits of using performance assessments for both the preservice and inservice groups. There is not a significant correlation between constructivist attitudes and using performance assessment. Although teachers in this study hold constructivist attitudes and acknowledge the benefits of using performance assessment, they do not use performance assessments. ^