This report from the U.S. Department of Education’s IES National Center for Education Statistics presents results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) at grades 4, 8, and 12 for hands-on and interactive computer tasks from the 2009 science assessment. Interactive computer and hands-on tasks were designed to assess how well students can perform scientific investigations, draw valid conclusions, and explain their results. As a part of the 2009 science assessment, a new generation of hands-on tasks was administered during which students worked with lab materials and other equipment to perform experiments. While hands-on tasks have been used in NAEP since the 1990s, these new tasks present students with more open-ended scenarios that require a deeper level of planning, analysis, and synthesis. For the first time, the NAEP science assessment also included interactive computer tasks in science. While performing the interactive computer and hands-on tasks, students manipulate objects and perform actual experiments, offering us richer data on how students respond to scientific challenges. Several key discoveries were observed:
- Students were successful on parts of investigations that involved limited sets of data and making straightforward observations of that data.
- Students were challenged by parts of investigations that contained more variables to manipulate or involved strategic decision making to collect appropriate data.
- The percentage of students who could select correct conclusions from an investigation was higher than for those students who could select correct conclusions and also explain their results.