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Leeston Consolidated School – Using rubrics to assess aspects of the nature of science

Leeston Consolidated School is a year 1 to 6 primary school on the outskirts of Christchurch, with a roll of around 400.

The leaders and teachers at Leeston Consolidated School have been working with Maree O’Boyle, primary science facilitator from UC Education Plus in Canterbury on teaching, learning and assessment in science.

The school was keen to build teachers’ confidence and capability and understanding of the Nature of Science-Science Capabilities, in order to develop the Science Capabilities in their students. They applied for Ministry of Education PLD funding to do this. They were allocated 100 hours from Term 2 last year and have been working with Maree since then. Professional learning alongside staff to meet the school’s needs includes class team teaching, observing-mentoring, Science Inquiry learning conversations, staff meetings and Teacher Only Day, guiding and supporting the Lead Teacher in updating the Science Curriculum based on the New Zealand curriculum, assessment and moderation.

Teaching and learning has been concentrating on the Nature of Science – Science Capabilities strand in the curriculum, through the lenses of observational drawing, using scientific vocabulary and asking questions. Meaningful science has been taught so that students can develop these skills and processes while engaging and recording their learning of scientific experiments. Students’ assessment data has been recorded using an observational drawing master sheet developed by Warren Bruce and Maree O’Boyle (see below). Seesaw, a digital portfolio tool, is used to record the responses of the junior students who are not yet writing. Through this process of context, content and critique, the school aims to foster in students an investigatory scientific mindset.

Download the observational drawing master sheet below: 

PDF icon. Observation-Vocabulary-Questioning Sheet (PDF 186 KB)

Students are assessed against rubrics adapted by Maree and Warren from the Science Exemplar Matrices (see below) which detail a progression of learning from curriculum level 1 to level 5. The rubric uses the metaphor of the life cycle of a frog (eggs to full cycle) to illustrate development through the curriculum. The rubrics detail the expectations of students at each level and enable teachers to assess students’ capability and progress. Students are assessed at the beginning of the teaching, then again at the end. The school divides each curriculum level into beginning and proficient, so that progress within a curriculum level can be documented and celebrated.

Download the rubrics below:

PDF icon. Example Assessment Rubrics (PDF 639 KB)

Careful moderation is carried out across the school, focusing primarily on the work of the priority learners identified in each class. Teachers find that the conversations and discussions in science inquiry and moderation sessions support them not only in the accurate assessment of the work of all students in their classes but in getting to know their learners and furthering their science curriculum knowledge. The sessions also enable the school to collect moderated exemplars of student work at each level.

The school’s in-depth PLD focus on science has resulted in increased engagement of the students and improved confidence and capability of all teachers. Science leadership in the school has developed and strengthened along with renewed community interest. The school’s four-year plan for science teaching and learning uses the contextual strands as the vehicle for focusing on the Nature of Science-Science Capabilities which align with the Key Competencies. Over the four years – expectations are for a minimum 40 science lessons each year, equivalent to one each week – students will cover all the strands of the curriculum and there will be a record of their progression of learning within science. Improving students’ scientific capabilities is an important part of Leeston School’s drive to develop students who are competent, connected, and actively involved members of their community.

With thanks to Lynda Taylor, Principal, and Maree O'Boyle of UC Education Plus.