B. Student’s role
As active learners, students should initiate, organise, make decisions and take responsibility for their own learning, and participate in the learning activities with their hands-on and minds-on. To foster the ownership of learning, stude nts need to be guided to and engaged in setting own goals, develop own criteria of assessment and evaluate own progress. The feeling of ownership generates enthusiasm.
The following are activities that can enhance students ’ learning.
ŸPerforming practical work
ŸCompleting project work
ŸParticipating in discussions
ŸTaking part in role play
ŸParticipating in debates
ŸDemonstrating in front of a class
ŸReading books, newspapers, magazines, periodicals, etc.
ŸSearching for information from CD-ROMs, the Internet, etc.
ŸFollowing self-instructional materials
ŸConstructing concept maps and composing notes
ŸEvaluating their own performance
ŸAttending seminars and exhibitions
Students should learn to transfer skills and learning from one context to a nother.
Transferability of the process of investigation and acquisition of new knowledge will help students continue to learn. W hen students start to believe in themselves, confidence will grow.
This in turn breeds positive feelings and motivation resulting in effective learning. The skills and habits developed in active learning are essential for students to become life -long learners.
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IV. A S S E S S M E N T
Assessment is the practice of collecting evidence of students’ progress in learning. It is an integral part of the learning and teaching cycle. Assessment provides information needed for improving learning and teaching processes to both teachers and students.
In order to bring about improvements in learning and teaching, it is essential that any assessment be aligned to the processes of learning and teaching. Apart from the better known summative assessment which would normally be identified with tests, end -of-term examinations and public examinations, a uthentic formative assessment needs to be introduced to serve as a diagnostic tool to help improving students’ learning. Further, school-based assessment, both formative and summative, should be given due consideration.
Public Examination (Summative Assessment) School-based Assessment
(Formative and Summative)
Formative assessment should be carried out on a continuous basis and through different ways such as oral questioning, observation of students’ performance, assignments, project work, practical tests and written tests. It should be integrated with learning and teaching throughout the course with the purpose of promoting the quality and effectiveness of learning and teaching. It should provide feedback to teachers who could then make decisions about what should be done next to enhance students’ learning; sometimes it may lead to the employment of a more appropriate teaching method. It should also provide feedback to students so that they understand how to improve their learning.
Quality criteria, which are descriptions of what students are able to do in relation to the set of aims and objectives, can serve as the foci that guide the learning and teaching processes.
Students and teachers can share expected learning outcomes right at the beginning of a lesson or a small unit of the curriculum. Teachers can make judgements on students’ progress and students can evaluate their own learning based on the established quality criteria. For example, in the domain of knowledge and understanding, the quality criterion “can give clear explanation to questions that involve individual chemistry concepts” is suitable for students of average ability while the quality criterion “can give appropriate , clear and logical explanation to questions by linking up concepts from two or more topics” is more suitable for students of higher ability.
Assessment provides information on students’ achievement in relation to the set objectives. It is important that not only the objectives in the domain of knowledge and understanding are assessed, but those related to skills and processes, being essential to the study of chemistry, should also be assessed throughout the course.
Higher order skills such as problem solving and decision making can be tested by using questions based on information which is unfamiliar to students who are required to use the principles and concepts learnt and apply them in a logical manner to a novel situation. In answering open-ended questions which test abilities in analysis and evaluation, they are expected to consider as many relevant aspects as possible to form judgements. In questions testing communication skills, students are expected to give essay-type answers, presenting arguments clearly and logically.
For objectives related to values and attitudes, a certain degree of flexibility in assessment may be employed. Observations, interview s, essay-writing and students’ self-assessment are some of the possible assessment strategies.
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In the learning and teaching of chemistry, a number of assessment strategies can be used.
Teachers should have well-thought-out plans on how to assess students’ achievements and should let students know how they will be assessed.
Paper and pencil tests
Paper and pencil tests have been widely employed as the major method of assessment in schools. However, the prolonged reliance on these types of assessment strategies would have a narrowing effect on learning, and probably teaching too. Teachers should refrain from the temptation of teaching knowledge and understanding that can only be assessed by paper and pencil tests. Teachers should also avoid testing only basic information recall and should try to construct test items that assess the understanding of concepts, problem solving abilities and higher order thinking skills. Incorporation of open-ended questions in tests and examinations could also help evaluating students’ creativity and critical thinking skills.
Written assignment is widely used in learning a nd teaching processes. It is an assessment tool that continuously reflects students’ efforts, achievements, strengths and weaknesses.
The scores or grades for assignments can be used to form part of the record to show students’
progress. Teachers are enc ouraged to make use of students’ written assignments as a formative assessment tool. The use of appropriate assignments aligned with learning objectives can lessen the pressure of formal assessment. Comments on students’ written work with concrete suggestions for improvement are valuable feedback to students. As a means of evaluation, assignments can also reflect the effectiveness of teaching, provide feedback upon which teachers can set further operational targets for students, and make reasonable adjus tments in teaching.
Oral questioning can provide teachers with specific information on how the students think in certain situations. Students’ responses often provide clues to their strengths, weaknesses, misunderstandings, levels of understanding, interest, attitudes and abilities. Teachers are encouraged to use questions targeting a range of abilities, from those requiring only recall of facts to those demand ing higher order thinking. In addition, a balance of both open-ended and closed-end questions should be maintained, and problems based on information which is unfamiliar to students could be set.
While students are working in groups or individually, teachers could take the opportunity to observe and note the different aspects of students’ learning. When students are engaged in learning activities, teachers could observe the approaches students take to solve problems and their attitudes to work, such as perseverance, independence, cooperation, and willingness to address difficulties. In practical sessions, teachers could look for the choices students make in regard to the equipment they use, the safety measures they adopt, the activities they prefer, whom they work with, and the interaction with others. Teachers shoul d keep brief records and use such information for making further judgements about students’ learning.
Practical work and scientific investigations
Whether the practice of assessing practical skills and skills in scientific investigations by w ritten tests and examinations is desirable or appropriate deserves further deliberation. It is generally agreed that more suitable strategies for assessing these skills are direct observations or practical tests, i.e. assessing in an authentic environment where learning and assessments are integrated, and a feedback can be given to students immediately. Students’ laboratory or investigation reports can also be assessed so that a more complete picture about students’
performance can be obtained.
Project work, a powerful learning and teaching as well as assessment strategy, allows students not only to exercise their practical skills and apply what they have learnt, but also to employ various skills and thinking processes such as identifying problems, for mulating hypotheses, designing and implementing strategies and evaluation. Teachers can make use of a combination of assessment strategies to collect evidences of student learning in the knowledge and skill domains, and gauge their creativity, communication skills, collaboration skills and problem solving abilities. Teachers can also make use of appropriate criteria to assess students’ values and attitudes demonstrated in the process of doing a project.
To conclude the discussion, it is needed to state that the assessment strategies suggested above are by no means exhaustive. A combination of assessment strategies can provide a more vivid picture of students’ achievements, and teachers should explore appropriate assessment opportunities for their own students.
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The Hong Kong Examinations Authority (HKEA) organises the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) to assess students’ attainment and publishes a chemistry examination syllabus annually. Teachers should note that the syllabus serves to provide information to teachers and students so that they have a clear understanding of the examination requirements. It should be read alongside this document.
Given the mode of assessment adopted in the HKCEE, it is neither possible nor desirable to translate all the learning objectives into assessment objectives. Teachers should note the assessment objectives of the HKEA syllabus are based on the learning objectives suggested in this Curriculum. However, teachers should not ignore the learning objectives not included in the assessment objectives.