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Assessing OPIHI

A major goal of the OPIHI project is to advance the knowledge of students related to ecology, the intertidal, and related concepts. The OPIHI program has created a number of instruments intended to aid in the assessment of project impact on students.

Pre/post OPIHI concept inventories that rank knowledge of different concepts related to the project on a scale from 1 (=I have never heard of this) to 5 (=I know this so well, I could teach someone else). These can be administered to the students and scored to compare pre- to post- project. It is very important to emphasize that the concept inventory is not a test. You may wish to modify the inventory based on your teaching goals. Because sometimes self-reflection can be open to interpretation, it may be a good idea to include several concepts in the inventory that were not covered in the project. If these concepts do not significantly change in ranking from pre- to post-, they can help provide a measure of validation that students are being reasonable and honest when reporting understanding of concepts. You might also choose to include some Hawaiian terms that translate to ecology terms as some students might know the information in a different language.

A second method of assessing student impact is to request writing samples on the topic "How would you conduct a thorough study of the intertidal?" We have provided a rubric for scoring these writing samples for high, middle, and low goal achievement in three areas: awareness of surroundings and organisms in the intertidal, general scientific methodology, and specific sampling methodology.

We also ask students to prepare a list of what they knew about different taxonomic groups prior to any project work, following in class observation and book and internet research but before field work, and following the field monitoring project. These lists can be useful for examining impact in a variety of ways, such as the number of concepts listed as well as the number of misconceptions listed and corrected in later phases of the project, and the number of concepts gaining sophistication during each of the three reporting periods. For example, students may write that snails eat algae initially, and following their field work experience they may note that snails eat Ulva, or sea lettuce, by scraping it from rocks with a radula.

The post-project evaluation asks students to rank the project and answer some questions about skills taught over the course of the project. You can choose to modify the evaluation based on your goals for the project. This provides information about students' attitudes toward conducting field research, and also provides some feedback about what they liked and did not like about the project, as well as what they felt they learned from the project. A variation of this evaluation can also be used as a pre-assessment. It is important to emphasis that is an evaluation of the project, not an evaluation of the students, and that they will not be graded on their answers. You can also choose to keep the evaluation anonymous.

In addition to the formal measurements provided, you may also note informal measures of impact. For example:

  • Students presentation their results at science fairs, scientific conferences, and seminars.
  • Students asked to attend field trips as helpers the following year are able to work effectively in the field one year after their own projects were completed, teaching the younger students about field techniques and organism identification.
  • Unprompted volunteering by students to participate in marine-oriented community events (e.g. algal cleanups) and as research volunteers at marine organizations (e.g. the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology).
  • The number of students visiting the classroom at (e.g. lunchtime) increases as does the frequency of visits, as they come in to independently observe and research organisms that were collected during trips.
  • When given an opportunity to do a research or art project with no guidelines or restrictions students choose organisms that they have been studying.

Conducting a Performance-Based Assessment

It is an essential element of this project that the overall assessment of student learning is performance-based and tied into the authenticity of the project. If we want students to have a completely authentic experience, it is important that even in the presentation of their work they act as professional scientists would. Doing real science includes the obvious: making observations, forming and testing hypotheses, collecting data, accounting for possible sources of error, and formulating explanations based on evidence. Doing science also includes the communication of findings to our fellow scientists, and more importantly to the public. The communication portion of a project can provide a rich opportunity to assess student learning. By incorporating a performance-based task, such as an annual report that could be submitted to a relevant state agency, the assessment becomes an integral part of the learning experience. This portion of the project also helps us meet the goal of increasing community awareness, as the student products like brochures and posters can be used to disseminate information on the intertidal throughout the community.

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OPIHI: Our Project in Hawaii's Interdental - Contact: philippo@hawaii.edu