Assessing Programs That Invite Thinking
Susan R. Goldman James W. Pellegrino John Bransford Vanderbilt University
Our goal in this chapter is to discuss issues of evaluation that have arisen in the context of a problem-solving series that has been developed by the Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt's Learning Technology Center. The research and development of the series, called "The Adventures of Jasper Woodbury," began as an effort to offer an alternative to traditional classroom contexts where students often fail to see the relevance of what they are learning to real life (e.g., Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, CTGV, 1990). A major goal of the series is to generate excitement about mathematics and science among middle school students (Grades 5, 6, 7) and help them develop powerful skills of mathematical problem formulation and problem solving. A second goal is to help students see how content domains that are traditionally taught as separate "subjects" are actually integrated in the real world (CTGV, 1991a, 1991b, 1993). Solving real problems often involves using math, science, geographic, and economic concepts together. The Jasper problem-solving series provides opportunities for students to experience such interdependence. A third goal of the series is to motivate students to become proficient in the "basic skills" of mathematics. We say more about each of these goals in subsequent sections of the chapter.
The introduction of the series as part of the regular classroom curriculum has brought to the forefront critical assessment and evaluation issues. As evidenced by the other chapters in this volume, there is considerable interest in implementing new technologies in instructional settings and assessing the effects they have on instructional outcomes. What remains less clear is how to classify the various