Assessing students' ability in performing scientific inquiry: instruments for measuring science skills in primary education

Patricia Kruit, R.J. Oostdam, E. van den Berg, J. Schuitema

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Background: With the increased attention on the implementation of inquiry activities in primary science classrooms, a growing interest has emerged in assessing students’ science skills. Research has thus far been concerned with the limitations and advantages of different test formats to assess students’ science skills.
    Purpose: This study explores the construction of different instruments for measuring science skills by categorizing items systematically on three subskill levels (science-specific, thinking, metacognition) as well as on different steps of the empirical cycle.
    Sample: The study included 128 fifth and sixth grade students from seven primary schools in the Netherlands.
    Design and method: Seven measures were used: a paper-and-pencil test (PPT), three performance assessments, two metacognitive selfreport tests, and a test used as an indication of general cognitive ability.
    Results: Reliabilities of all tests indicate sufficient internal consistency. Positive correlations between the PPT and the three performance assessments show that the different tests measure a common core of similar skills thus providing evidence for convergent validity.
    Results also show that students’ ability to perform scientific inquiry is significantly related to general cognitive ability. No relationship was found between the measure of general metacognitive ability and either the PPT or the three performance assessments. By contrast, the metacognitive self-report test constructed to obtain information about the application of metacognitive abilities in performing scientific inquiry, shows significant – although small – correlations
    with two of the performance assessments. Further explorations reveal sufficient scale reliabilities on subskill and step level.
    Conclusions: The present study shows that science skills can be measured reliably by categorizing items on subskill and step level. Additional diagnostic information can be obtained by examining mean scores on both subskill and step level. Such measures are not only suitable for assessing students’ mastery of science skills but can also provide teachers with diagnostic information to adapt their instructions and foster the learning process of their students.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)413-439
    Number of pages27
    JournalResearch in Science & Technological Education
    Issue number4
    Early online date8 Jan 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    This research was supported by a grant from the National Platform Science & Technology [Platform Bèta Techniek] in the context of a Call for Proposals Science Skills (2015).

    FundersFunder number
    National Platform Science & Technology


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