Assessing Literacy

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Science  18 Jan 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6117, pp. 251-253
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6117.251-d

Scientific literacy, a skill needed beyond the classroom, is being integrated into general education curriculums, resulting in a need to assess students as they develop scientific literacy skills. Gormally et al. describe the development of the Test of Scientific Literacy Skills (TOSLS) as a freely available, time-efficient, and psychometrically sound test for use in undergraduate introductory science courses. Using definitions of scientific literacy in education policy documents and survey results from general education faculty, the team identified two major skill categories as measurable outcomes, or TOSLS skills: recognizing and analyzing the use of methods of inquiry, and organizing, analyzing, and interpreting quantitative data. An extensive pilot study that included testing students in a general biology course, individual student interviews, and several rounds of expert faculty evaluation suggested that the TOSLS is able to identify students' scientific literacy skill proficiency. Additionally, the TOSLS was sensitive enough to detect pre- to post-semester learning gains, suggesting that it will be valuable in future assessment efforts.

CBE-Life Sci. Educ. 11, 364 (2012).

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