The Assessment of Students' Competencies and Constructionism With Examples in Biological and Natural Sciences

The Assessment of Students' Competencies and Constructionism With Examples in Biological and Natural Sciences

Mariana. Iancu (Bioterra University of Bucharest, Romania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5430-1.ch013

Abstract

The author approaches the necessity of the reform of the evaluation activity in the educational process at biology and natural sciences classes in various ways (i.e., the assessment of students' competencies, the assessment of construction of knowledge by students' efforts, assessment of students' productions, of projects, assessment of their experimental, practical and investigative activities, the assessment with the aid of informational and communicational technologies, the complementary use of modernized traditional methods and modern methods, the use of the new system “nothing is lost, everything is transformed,” for which this researcher contributes with examples and recommendations); all these are in accordance with Papert's constructionist ideas (e.g., to learn by doing). Also, the researcher treats and contributes with examples to the process of assessment of students' competencies and of their constructionism in natural sciences, according to Program for International Student Assessment (P.I.S.A.).
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Introduction

The Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of the European Union (2006) on key competencies for lifelong learning is that education and training systems should generate new competencies to meet the characteristics of new jobs.

The educational policies of the European Union’s institutions are based on key competencies while training students, according to the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (U.N.E.S.C.O.), the system is founded on the education that clearly seeks to focus on: learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together with others, which is the students' vocational competencies’ concept.

Examples of key competencies set at European level for the educational process of science and technology are: understanding the consequences of science and technology (knowledge) on environment, the use and handling of scientific data to achieve a goal or to reach a decision or conclusion (skills/abilities), the respect for both security and sustainability in terms of scientific and technological progress in relation to himself, family, community and global issues (attitudes).

Students’ competencies are achieved mainly by constructionist learning, the educational theory enounced by Seymour Aubrey Papert: a contemporary American scientist and educator, one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, and of the constructionist movement in education, centered on learning by doing. Applied in Biological and Natural Sciences this means that the conscious activity of construction of students’ knowledge, due to their efforts, on the production of results through experiments, practical laboratory work, on production of models, founded on solutions for problems and so on. Stager Gary (2005) showed eight big ideas behind the constructionist learning lab by S. A. Papert:

  • 1.

    Learning by doing;

  • 2.

    Technology as building material, especially true for digital technology;

  • 3.

    Hard fun; learn best and work best if you enjoy what you are doing;

  • 4.

    Learning to learn;

  • 5.

    Taking time; do everything that is important; you have to learn to manage time for yourself;

  • 6.

    Can’t get it right without getting it wrong, because nothing important works for the first time; the only way to get it right is the feedback, is to look carefully at what happened when it went wrong;to do on ourselves what we do to our students; every difficulty we run into is an opportunity to learn; the best lesson we can give our students is to let them see us struggle to learn;

  • 7.

    Knowing about digital technology is as important as reading and writing, learning about computers is essential for our students’ futures but the most important purpose is using them now to learn about everything else, including Biology and Natural Sciences.

“Papert’s constructionism, in contrast with Piaget's constructivism, focuses more on the art of learning, or ‘learning to learn’, and on the significance of making things in learning” (Ackermann, 2001, p. 85), which corresponds to the European key competency field appointed as “learning to learn” (European Union, 2006, p. 13).

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