Teachers' experiences using the Science Toolkit

Several teachers from two schools were involved in the development of the Science Toolkit assessments. We talked with teachers and observed some of them working with their classes. 
Watch some videos or read about their experiences using the Science Toolkit.

The schools

Newlands Intermediate and Rangikura School, both schools within the Wellington region, assisted with the development of the science toolkit.

Four teachers made videos about how they used the toolkit in their schools.

Ian and Rochelle share how their schools used the Science Toolkit.
Joel and Aaron share how they made use of the assessment data to change the way they teach science in their classrooms.

Schools' experiences of using the Science Toolkit

Newlands Intermediate in is in the northern suburbs. There are 517 Year 7 and 8 students. Over half of the students identify as European/Pākehā, a quarter as Asian, 8% Māori, and 8% Pasifika. 
Science is one of five Professional Learning areas at the school. Teachers become experts in one learning area and share their knowledge with their colleagues. 
Rangikura School is a full primary school in Porirua city. There are 400 students with 47% of the school identifying as Māori and 39% as Pasifika. There are four classes of Year 7 and 8 students at the school. One of the Year 7 and 8 teachers, who has a scientific background, leads science across the school. 

How the schools used the Science Toolkit 

The teachers in both schools administered Assessment 1 in the science toolkit to their classes. Both students and teachers provided feedback on the items as well as the functionality of the assessment. The teachers marked the responses of the students in their own classes. They identified gaps in their students’ science understanding and developed activities to support learning. 

Teachers’ experiences

After trialling the science toolkit, the teachers reported on how their students engaged with the science toolkit and how it impacted on their own science understanding and science teaching. Here’s what the teachers found:
Students enjoyed the assessments 
  “Questions in the toolkit allowed students to give it a go.” 
Teachers from both schools reported that their students enjoyed the questions in the science toolkit. They said students liked them because:
  • the questions were easy to understand, so students were clear about what they had to do 
  • the items were set out with clear diagrams  
  • explanations required just the facts, so the writing load was minimal which made it easier for students to answer, including those who had not been taught a lot of science 
  • the questions required them to problem solve rather than repeat content, so they were able to show their science understanding. 
After the assessment their students talked about what they had learnt from the questions. Rangikura School teachers commented that some students continued to talk about the questions at home with their whānau, debating whose response had been correct. 
Teachers could better understand the science curriculum
 “I can see the end result, see what we’re working towards e.g., our lessons, and how to shape them.” 
After marking student responses, teachers worked with the research team to look at the individual test item report (one of the two reports that the science toolkit generates).  
This report explains:  
  • how each question is connected to the New Zealand Curriculum,  
  • the science capability that is being assessed, 
  • what students are required to do to answer the question correctly, and  
  • what teachers can do next to help students who answered incorrectly.
Teachers said that looking at the questions and the reports in the science toolkit helped them:  
  • see what each science capability looked like in practice 
  • gain a better understanding of the content of the science curriculum due to the broad range of science concepts covered  
  • see how teaching the science capabilities could work for teachers who might not be confident in science   
  • feel more accountable to their students and want to improve their science teaching. 
Identifying the gaps in student understanding 
At both schools the gaps in students’ science understanding were easily identified. Teachers at each school identified science literacy as the biggest gap. The schools reported that students: 
  • had difficulty reading and interpreting science graphs, diagrams, and models 
  • provided long and non-factual explanations    
  • made claims without using evidence.  
Both schools found these results mirrored findings from assessments in other curriculum areas such as reading and maths.  
At Rangikura School teachers were also surprised to find some students had done unexpectedly well on the assessment. 
“There were some surprises...  Some students (with lower reading abilities) achieved better than expected and other students that should have done better were less attentive and often answered incorrectly checking the first box with a partial answer and missing that there was a fuller explanation in another box.” 
Based on these findings each school developed approaches and resources to meet the specific needs of their students. Select the links below to read more about the schools’ experiences.