This collaborative project between Evergreen State College and the University of Washington is creating, validating, and disseminating a science process and reasoning skills test (SPARST) to assess students' acquisition of such skills as experimental design, data analysis, graphing, and scientific writing. SPARST is being designed to help biology faculty: a) gauge the skill level of incoming students, b) revise undergraduate curricula to better address the teaching of skills along with content, c) create a national network for sharing skill-teaching practices and resources, and d) improve the general science literacy of both science majors and non-majors.
Intellectual Merit: Since there are few tests of this type available within the biological sciences, SPARST will help inform faculty of their effectiveness at helping students develop these skills and will help students become better prepared to enter graduate school or careers in science.
Broader Impact: SPARST is being tested at several institutions and revised iteratively in order to create a valid and reliable test for distribution. The test will be free and available on-line as multiple choice and short-answer questions. It is designed to be graded online; responses to short answer questions will be compiled for ease of grading and faculty will be provided with a validated grading rubric. Faculty who implement SPARST will be provided with a free, descriptive diagnostic of their students' abilities that will indicate how well each student performed on the subset of scaled questions in each science process skill area and how the faculty's class compares to similar biology classes at an anonymous subset of similar institutions.
This project is being jointly funded by the Directorate for Biological Sciences, Division of Biological Infrastructure and the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, Division of Undergraduate Education as part of their Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education efforts.