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article imageOp-Ed: AAAS science website great for students & teachers hypothetically

By Justin Goodwins     Apr 11, 2011 in Science
Science is a driving force in our society today. There could be none of the great achievements that mankind has made without science as a foundation. But how can students learn about science online?
One would assume that in our enlightened age, our children are probably well founded in at least the fundamentals of science. Still, studies show that in math and science, American children lag far behind children of other developed countries. Much of the problem may stem from common errors of logic, or from misconceptions that have never been addressed. Studying and clearing up these misconceptions may be the key to improving our children’s math and science literacy.
Recently, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), created a website dedicated to understanding and addressing the problem. The website, part of the Project 2061, is a result of over a decade of research aimed at the advancement of math, science and technology literacy. The site contains more than 600 multiple-choice questions which assess key ideas about science, as well as misconceptions. The website has been designed to combat a misconception that multiple-choice tests are only useful for testing memorization and factual trivia.
"As a result of our efforts, many of the test questions included in the new website measure not only knowledge of factual information, but they also probe a student's ability to explain real-world phenomena, reason logically through problem situations, or identify the reason why a claim is true," says George DeBoer, deputy director of Project 2061.
The idea behind this project is to understand not only what children perceive correctly, but what incorrect assumptions and perceptions are being formulated. The AAAS website presents a detailed analysis of how a national sample of students answered each question. It also provides a breakdown of both correct as well as incorrect responses to the test.
For instance, for the key idea that "all matter is made up of atoms," the AAAS website notes that 27% of the middle school students and 20% of the high school students who were tested incorrectly believed that "cells are not made up of atoms." On the key idea that "genetic information is encoded in DNA molecules," 40% of middle school students and 30% of high school students had the misconception that only animals have DNA while plants and mushrooms do not.
The website is organized in such a way as to give a snapshot of what students know, and what they have misconceptions about. The goal being to provide educators with information designed to improve testing and curriculum.
The website could be used for instance to assess how many students in a class are misunderstanding key concepts, and how an instructor may counter such misconceptions.
Currently,, is free for anyone and designed for middle and early high school students, as well as for instructors looking to assess and improve curriculum. The website is designed to test student understanding in earth, life, physical, and nature sciences, as well as correct vs. incorrect ideas.
The site also provides data as to how well students are grasping science and what difficulties they are having. It also gives instructors the ability to select, save and print items and answer keys.
Although billed as intended primarily for teachers, I found as a home school instructor, that it was an excellent tool. Hopefully teachers, parents and students alike will use this site to improve our understanding of the sciences, and to help enlighten the youth of our nation.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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