Exploring Student Understanding of Force and Motion Using a Simulation-Based Performance Assessment
Performance assessment (PA) has been increasingly advocated as a method for measuring students’ conceptual understanding of scientific phenomena. In this study, we describe preliminary findings of a simulation- based PA utilized to measure 8th grade students’ understanding of physical science concepts taught via an experimental problem-based curriculum, SLIDER (Science Learning Integrating Design Engineering and Robotics). In SLIDER, students use LEGO robotics to complete a series of investigations and engineering design challenges designed to deepen their understanding of key force and motion concepts (net force, acceleration, friction, balanced forces, and inertia). The simulation-based performance assessment consisted of 4 tasks in which students engaged with video simulations illustrating physical science concepts aligned to the SLIDER curriculum. The performance assessment was administered to a stratified sample of 8th grade students (N=24) in one school prior to and following implementation of the SLIDER curriculum. In addition to providing an illustration of the use of simulation- based performance assessment in the context of design-based implementation research (DBIR), the results of the study indicate preliminary evidence of student learning over the course of curriculum implementation.