The AmericaQuest instructional program develops reasoning skills that are central to the practices of professional historians and archaeologists. The MashpeeQuest performance task is designed to tap the following subset of the skills that the AmericaQuest program is intended to foster:
Information Analysis Skills
Ability to synthesize disparate ideas through reasoning in a problem-solving context.
Ability to offer reasoned arguments rather than brief guesses.
Ability to formulate creative, well-founded theories for unsolved questions in science and history.
During instruction, students participate via the Internet in an expedition with archaeologists and historians who are uncovering clues about the fate of a Native American tribe, the Anasazi, who are believed to have abandoned their magnificent cliff dwellings in large numbers between 1200 and 1300. To collect observations of students’ acquisition of the targeted skills, the MashpeeQuest assessment task engages students in deciding a court case involving recognition of another tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoags, who some believe disappeared just as the Anasazi did. A band of people claiming Wampanoag ancestry has been trying for some years to gain recognition from the federal government as a tribe that still exists. Students are asked to investigate the evidence, select websites that provide evidence to support their claim, and justify their choices based on the evidence. They are also asked to identify one place to go to find evidence that does not support their claim, and to address how their theory of what happened to the Mashpee is still justified.
SOURCE: Adapted from Mislevy et al. (2000).