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Measuring Graph Comprehension, Critique, and Construction in Science


"Interpreting and creating graphs plays a critical role in scientific practice. The K-12 Next Generation Science Standards call for students to use graphs for scientific modeling, reasoning, and communication. To measure progress on this dimension, we need valid and reliable measures of graph understanding in science. In this research, we designed items to measure graph comprehension, critique, and construction and developed scoring rubrics based on the knowledge integration (KI) framework. We administered the items to over 460 middle school students. We found that the items formed a coherent scale and had good reliability using both item response theory and classical test theory. The KI scoring rubric showed that most students had difficulty linking graphs features to science concepts, especially when asked to critique or construct graphs. In addition, students with limited access to computers as well as those who speak a language other than English at home have less integrated understanding than others. These findings point to the need to increase the integration of graphing into science instruction. The results suggest directions for further research leading to comprehensive assessments of graph understanding."