Perspectives of Hands-On
Science Teaching

David L. Haury and Peter Rillero, 1994
6. How is hands-on learning evaluated?

Teachers understand the importance of evaluation and are expressing concerns regarding appropriate practices (Symington & Osborne, 1983). In all modes of instruction evaluation has important roles in efforts to assess student learning, to discover misconceptions among students, and to determine the effectiveness of programs (Doran & Hejaily, 1992). "As classroom teachers, we can praise hands-on experiential science, but until we can demonstrate that students are learning significantly more of the fundamental thinking skills of science, we cannot say that they have truly achieved science literacy" (Tetenbaum, 1992, p.12). Here we offer a variety of views on evaluation and assessment of hands-on learning and teaching.

Teacher Responses

Developer Thoughts

Notes from the Literature


It is clear that the traditional paper-and-pencil, multiple-choice approach to testing cannot be used alone to adequately assess the full range of learning outcomes typically associated with hands-on learning in science. Just as hands-on learning involves activity, demonstration of experientially based learning requires some degree of active expression beyond responding to a small set of standardized test items. Recommendations include more frequent use of verbal explanations, using assessment strategies that incorporate performance tasks, developing observational checklists and scoring schemes, and compiling portfolios of student work. It is acknowledged that these enriched forms of assessment require a greater investment of time to develop, administer, and interpret, but there is also a great need to more carefully align student assessment with curricular aims, instructional practices, and performance standards.

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