Raising test scores vs. teaching higher order thinking (HOT): senior science teachers’ views on how several concurrent policies affect classroom practices

Anat Zohar*, Vered Alboher Agmon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: This study investigates how senior science teachers viewed the effects of a Raising Test Scores policy and its implementation on instruction of higher order thinking (HOT), and on teaching thinking to students with low academic achievements. Background: The study was conducted in the context of three concurrent policies advocating: (a) improving test scores; (b) developing students' thinking and inquiry skills; and (c) narrowing achievement gaps. Methodology: Data collection was based on 20 interviews with senior science teachers. Results: The findings show that the senior teachers’ expectations regarding a ‘new spirit’ calling for instruction of inquiry and HOT throughout the system did not materialize under the high stakes testing regime. Test preparation did involve intense engagement with HOT tasks. However, under the regime of high stakes testing, instruction of HOT seemed to take the form of ‘mechanical instruction’, implying rote learning and drilling students in answering HOT items, rather than teaching for thinking in a meaningful way. Conclusion: In the presence of the aggressive policy addressing the need to raise test scores, the goal of teaching students to think, as well as the more specific goal of teaching low-achieving students to think was compromised in a considerable way.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)243-260
Number of pages18
JournalResearch in Science and Technological Education
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Higher order thinking
  • high-stakes testing
  • inquiry learning
  • large-scale implementation
  • low-achieving students

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