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Technology-based Assessment Using a Hot-Air Balloon Simulation

Technology-based Assessment Using a Hot-Air Balloon Simulation

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been exploring the use of more complex assessment tasks enabled by technology. In one technology-based simulation task, for example, eighth-graders are asked to use a hot-air balloon simulation to design and conduct an experiment to determine the relationship between payload mass and balloon altitude (see screen shot below). After completing the tutorial about the simulation tool interface, students select values for the independent variable payload mass. They can observe the balloon rise in the flight box and note changes in the values of the dependent variables of altitude, balloon volume, and time to final altitude.

In another problem, the amount of helium, another independent variable, is held constant to reduce the task's difficulty. Students can construct tables and graphs and draw conclusions by clicking on the buttons below the heading Interpret Results. As they work with the simulation, students can get help if they need it: a glossary of science terms, science help about the substance of the problem, and computer help about the buttons and functions of the simulation interface are built in to the technology environment. The simulation task takes 60 minutes to complete, and student performance is used to derive measures of the student's computer skills, scientific inquiry exploration skills, and scientific inquiry synthesis skills within the context of physics.

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