Pedagogy of Science Teaching Test

Assessing Pedagogical Content Knowledge of K-8 Science Teaching

Teachers must be able to combine several important kinds of knowledge in order to successfully implement classroom science instruction for concept learning. These include knowledge of science content, science pedagogy and inquiry pedagogy. A theoretical knowledge of each is not enough; a teacher needs to understand how to integrate them to make instructional decisions for teaching a variety of specific topics in actual classroom situations. Science teacher education programs normally include both science content courses and science teaching methods courses. In the former, understanding of science content is both promoted and assessed using a large variety of problems. Much less attention has been given to promoting and assessing understanding of science pedagogies in this way.

Our focus has been the design, development and evaluation of about a hundred science pedagogy test items, for both formative and summative use. The items are posed as case-based teaching problems rather than in terms of generalities about pedagogy. Each item begins with a classroom teaching vignette, followed by a question about preferred teaching approaches for the particular topic and situation. The four response options lie along a spectrum of instructional approaches from didactic direct, active direct, guided inquiry, to open inquiry. Items can be sorted and selected by grade level or by science discipline. For formative use in science teacher education settings, individual items are designed to spark engaging discussions about contextualized alternative teaching approaches. For summative or research purposes, selected items can be compiled into a Pedagogy of Science Teaching Test (POSTT) which can provide science teaching orientation profiles across this basic spectrum of pedagogical choices, as well as reference points for comparative purposes.

Below you can find additional information about the POSTT as well as the individual items and instruments. At this time, some of our items are still in revision. Only final form items are publicly available. As our revision process proceeds we will unlock more items and instruments until the full bank of items and eight instruments are open.

The project was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (DUE-0512596). Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations at this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

POSTT project description 

Case-based assessment of science teaching orientations: formative use in teacher education

In order to be able to teach science effectively, teachers must acquire many different types of knowledge from their teacher preparation programs. In addition to learning science content, they must learn how to teach it, not only in general, but with knowledge of how to teach specific science topics at the appropriate level for their students. Furthermore, since science education standards advocate inquiry-based instruction, teachers need knowledge of both scientific inquiry and inquiry pedagogy. In practice, teachers need to integrate all these kinds of knowledge to design and implement classroom instruction. This is a demanding task, and it is hardly surprising that new teachers often struggle to manage it.

Exercises or problems are an ongoing component of science content courses. Students practice applying the science they learn to a wide range of different situations, and they are assessed on their ability to apply their knowledge and understanding to new cases. The situation is usually rather different for acquiring and being assessed on science pedagogy. In science teaching methods courses, prospective teachers learn about instructional methods and strategies but are not usually given numerous opportunities to apply them in problem-based fashion to wide-ranging classroom situations. Part of the reason for the imbalance may be that few if any case-based, problem-based assessments have thus far have been available for science pedagogy. Creating this kind of assessment is both challenging and unfamiliar.

Thus, a central aim of this project was to design and develop a new type of science pedagogy assessment for both formative and summative use, by creating and collecting a variety of individual assessment item problems. Thus far we have created over a hundred such items across three science disciplines (physical, life, and earth sciences), for various topics, grade ranges, and facets of instruction. For formative use in teacher education, individual items can be used to engender debate and discussion about science teaching approaches, in the context of specific topics, particular cases, and pedagogical decisions to be made (mainly regarding degree of inquiry). For program evaluation, research, or summative purposes, items may be compiled into either a general instrument or one focused on selected qualities (e.g., science discipline, topic, grade level/band, or facet of instruction). We call such an instrument a Pedagogy of Science Teaching Test.

POSTT instruments

Although POSTT items were developed primarily for the purpose of formative assessment, we are collecting data on the items in groups of 16 (each group is called a POSTT version/instrument). Four items are common to all POSTT versions, thus there will be eight POSTT versions to cover all 100 items. As we complete the refinement and revision of items, they are compiled into new POSTT versions to enable data collection on items.

Pedagogy of Science Teaching Tests: Formative assessments of science teaching orientations was written by William W. Cobern, David G. Schuster, Betty Adams, Brandy Ann Skjold, Ebru Zeynep Muğaloğlu, Amy Bentz and Kelly Sparks. It was published in 2014 by the International Journal of Science Education. Volume 36(13), p. 2265-2288.  This paper discusses the potential use of POSTT items for summative purposes. We urge anyone interested in using our POSTT versions for summative assessment to first read that paper. We also invite users to offer their own POSTT versions.

Color-coded key to POSTT item response options

POSTT items

Individual items are accessible as PDF pages within POSTT instruments linked above. All items are numbered and titled, and here is a list of how items have been allocated to POSTTs to date. We also offer a table showing items categorized by science discipline (subject) and by approximate grade level.

POSTT Project Team

Project directors

Dr. David Schuster
Dr. William W. Cobern

Senior researchers

Betty Adams
Dr. Brandy Skjold

Research associates

Dr. Amy Bentz
Dr. Kelly Sparks

International collaborators

Dr. Ebru Muğaloğlu (Turkey)
Dr. Umesh Ramnarain (South Africa)
Dr. Young-Shin Park (Korea)