Hogeschool van Amsterdam

Performance assessment as a diagnostic tool for science teachers


Information on students’ development of science skills is essential for teachers to evaluate and improve their own education, as well as to provide adequate support and feedback to the learning process of individual students. The present study explores and discusses the use of performance assessments as a diagnostic tool for formative assessment to inform teachers and guide instruction of science skills in primary education.

Three performance assessments were administered to more than 400 students in grades 5 and 6 of primary education. Students performed small experiments using real materials while following the different steps of the empirical cycle. The mutual relationship between the three performance assessments is examined to provide evidence for the value of performance assessments as useful tools for formative evaluation. Differences in response patterns are discussed, and the diagnostic value of performance assessments is illustrated with examples of individual student performances. Findings show that the performance assessments were difficult for grades 5 and 6 students but that much individual variation exists regarding the different steps of the empirical cycle. Evaluation of scores as well as a more substantive analysis of students’ responses provided insight into typical errors that students make. It is concluded that performance assessments can be used as a diagnostic tool for monitoring students’ skill performance as well as to support teachers in evaluating and improving their science lessons.

Reference Kruit, P., Oostdam, R., van den Berg, E., & Schuitema, J. (2020). Performance assessment as a diagnostic tool for science teachers. Research in Science Education, 50, 1093-1117. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-018-9724-9
Published by  Kenniscentrum Onderwijs en Opvoeding 1 January 2020

Publication date

Jan 2020


Ed van den Berg
Jaap Schuitema

Research database