UIC researchers to lead Illinois science assessment partnership

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Learning Sciences Research Institute, or LSRI, has been tapped to lead a two-year collaboration with 24 top Illinois science educators. The educators will develop clusters of items to be used on the Illinois Science Assessment, or ISA, the state’s annual science test administered to students enrolled in a public school district in grades 5, 8 and 11.

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The work by LSRI will enable the state to assess students with respect to the new Illinois Learning Standards in Science, which are based on the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS. The latter is part of a multi-state effort in the U.S. to integrate science knowledge across the dimensions of disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and cross-cutting concepts.

The UIC-based group is backed by a $700,000 grant, which is supported by the Illinois State Board of Education through a contract with Southern Illinois University-Carbondale with funds from the U.S. Department of Education.

Co-leader of the project is James Pellegrino, co-director of LSRI, who has produced influential research related to student learning, instruction and assessment for more than 30 years. He is a frequent leader of local and national large-scale research and development projects focused on assessment of student learning in various areas of mathematics and science, from kindergarten through college.

“Our deep knowledge and understanding of the Next Generation Science Standards and expertise in designing high-quality science assessment tasks for K-12 classrooms are being used to assist the state in creating a valid and instructionally supportive assessment of the science that is intended to be taught and learned given the vision embodied in the National Resource Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education and the NGSS,” said Pellegrino, who also is distinguished professor of liberal arts and sciences, psychology, and education.

Drawing upon LSRI’s extensive experience in developing NGSS-aligned instruction and assessment, the project will be co-led by Donald Wink, UIC professor of chemistry and learning sciences. Wink has been involved in many large-scale science education research and development projects, including the design of professional learning programs for state and local educators related to the NGSS.

Wink noted, “The NGSS finally achieves a long-term goal of science educators — to support students in learning the content and methods of science in an integrated way and with coherence across all areas of science,” which he said includes life science, physical science, earth and space science, and also engineering, technology, and science.

The LSRI research group includes Brian Gane, research assistant professor; Mon-lin Ko, research assistant professor; Sania Zaidi, research scientist; Laura Zeller, Ph.D. student in learning sciences; and Phyllis Pennock, a consultant specializing in science curriculum, instruction and assessment.

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