A new curriculum and assessment system for Year 6 science has been implemented in Swedish schools during the 2011-2012 school year. Along with a revised curriculum in biology, physics and chemistry, national tests have been developed and were administered for the first time in spring 2013. The five-year research project, from which this paper is drawn, is designed to analyse the curriculum objectives, grading criteria and the national tests and to investigate how the overall changes to assessment and grading affects the teaching of science at the Year 6 level.
The new tests and grades are based on statements of aims and content for Years 4-6 Biology, Physics and Chemistry (Curriculum for the Compulsory School, Preschool class and the Recreation Centre, 2011, pp. 105-149). The analysis of the curriculum and the national tests reported in this paper is focussed mainly on the curriculum aims, which are set out, for each science subject, in three groups corresponding to three general purposes of science education:
- To develop the ability to participate meaningfully in discussions of ways in which science, technology and society inter-relate (Group A)
- To develop the ability to conduct scientific investigations (Group B)
- To develop a good understanding of scientific concepts models, and theories (Group C)
The tests follow the structure of these three groups of aims and our analysis will trace the relationships among the statements of aim in the curriculum, the questions and tasks the students are expected to undertake, and the grading schemes to be used by the teachers in evaluating the students’ work. While, in general, the tests appear to be both innovative and very faithful to the curriculum, the challenges of evaluating students’ responses to complex questions and tasks raise both practical grading problems for schools and interesting questions for further consideration by researchers. The paper, therefore, concludes with some commentary on these questions and seeks to situate them in the broader context of curriculum and assessment in science education.