Publications & Resources

Cognitive Analysis of a Science Performance Assessment

Mar 1995

Gail P. Baxter, Anastasia D. Elder, and Robert Glaser

In this paper we demonstrate an approach for examining the cognitive activity students engage in during a science performance assessment. Thirty-six fourth- and fifth-grade students were interviewed while they conducted an investigation to determine the properties of various powders. Interview protocols and observations were analyzed with respect to several characteristics of proficient performance such as planning, monitoring, solution strategy, and explanations. Students with differing levels of competence (e.g., high and low scorers) could be distinguished in terms of these characteristics. High scorers provided a more complete plan for approaching the task, were more strategic in their problem-solving approach, engaged more frequently in a variety of self-monitoring activities, and generated better explanations of content-related concepts than low scorers. The results suggest the viability of this approach for analyzing the extent to which performance assessments measure higher order thinking.

Baxter, G. P., Elder, A. D., & Glaser, R. (1995). Cognitive analysis of a science performance assessment (CSE Report 398). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).