Academic rigour in science assessment tasks

Lincoln, Mary Elizabeth (2010) Academic rigour in science assessment tasks. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The critical problem of student disengagement and underachievement in the middle years of schooling (Years 4 . 9) has focussed attention on the quality of educational programs in schools, in Australia and elsewhere. The loss of enthusiasm for science in the middle years is particularly problematic given the growing demand for science professionals. Reshaping middle years programs has included an emphasis on integrating Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and improving assessment practices to engage students in higher cognitive processes and enhance academic rigour. Understanding the nature of academic rigour and how to embed it in students. science assessment tasks that incorporate the use of ICTs could enable teachers to optimise the quality of the learning environment. However, academic rigour is not clearly described or defined in the literature and there is little empirical evidence upon which researchers and teachers could draw to enhance understandings. This study used a collective case study design to explore teachers' understandings of academic rigour within science assessment tasks. The research design is based on a conceptual framework that is underpinned by socio-cultural theory. Three methods were used to collect data from six middle years teachers and their students. These methods were a survey, focus group discussion with teachers and a group of students and individual semi-structured interviews with teachers. Findings of the case study revealed six criteria of academic rigour, namely, higher order thinking, alignment, building on prior knowledge, scaffolding, knowledge construction and creativity. Results showed that the middle years teachers held rich understandings of academic rigour that led to effective utilisation of ICTs in science assessment tasks. Findings also indicated that teachers could further enhance their understandings of academic rigour in some aspects of each of the criteria. In particular, this study found that academic rigour could have been further optimised by: promoting more thoughtful discourse and interaction to foster higher order thinking; increasing alignment between curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment, and students. prior knowledge; placing greater emphasis on identifying, activating and building on prior knowledge; better differentiating the level of scaffolding provided and applying it more judiciously; fostering creativity throughout tasks; enhancing teachers‟ content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, and providing more in-depth coverage of fewer topics to support knowledge construction. Key contributions of this study are a definition and a model which clarify the nature of academic rigour.

Impact and interest:

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

620 since deposited on 21 Jul 2010
32 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 33209
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Diezmann, Carmel, Exley, Beryl, & Watters, James
Keywords: Academic rigour, academic tasks, assessment tasks, alignment, assessment for learning, case study, creativity, higher order thinking, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), intellectual challenge, knowledge construction, middle years of schooling, prior knowledge, scaffolding, science, socio-cultural theory, student engagement, teachers' understandings
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 21 Jul 2010 04:44
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:56

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page