Study skills in project based assessment at primary level
The present study examines aspects of assessment and study skills at primary level through the production and evaluation of a set of project-based materials for 8 to 11 year olds. The materials, entitled The Prismaston File, were prepared for use in the Curriculum Provision in Small Primary Schools (PRISMS) Project, and represent an attempt to expand the curriculum coverage and range of assessment techniques available to primary teachers. In addition there was a need to extend study skills research into the primary age range and to provide a direct link between study behaviour and performance, thus avoiding past dependence on self-report methodology and examination results. The Prismaston File attempted to achieve these aims by adopting an integrating theme for a variety of multiple choice exercises and structured tasks and by permitting the study process to take place in normal classroom conditions. Acceptable levels of reliability and concurrent validity were achieved. Data was collected from 418 lower and 544 upper junior school children in nine LEAs. Study behaviour was examined through children's tabulated records of their use of resources, friend and teacher help. Over half of the children were able to make these records appropriately, and the results showed that the vast majority of these could use the materials independently, especially in the upper age range. Classroom observation supported this interpretation but revealed some difficulties amongst the younger age group in assimilating unanticipated information. Factor analysis of the multiple choice data revealed a wider range of factors than could be accounted for by tested achievement in basic skills alone. Four factors emerged from the analyses of both the upper and lower junior versions and were explained primarily in terms of study contexts. These factors represented different aspects of graphicacy and literacy, as well as different levels of task engagement. These results are discussed in terms of the importance of assessing children's performance in a wide range of topics, modes and curriculum areas, and of linking process and product by means of observation and children's own records. It is suggested that teacher-made project-based assessment linked to attainment targets can provide a vehicle for National Curriculum assessment in the primary classroom.