2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 3:55 PM


MCCONNELL, David A., Geology, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-4101, STEER, David, Department of Geology, Univ of Akron, Akron, OH 44325 and OWENS, Katharine, Curriculum and Instructional Studies, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-4205, dam6@uakron.edu

Successful students need to build competence in abstract thinking, including effective problem solving and analytical reasoning, and be able to apply these cognitive skills to the challenges they encounter in their lives, both in the classroom, and beyond. Educational research shows that classes must exhibit two key features for students to learn science successfully: 1. Students' understanding must be frequently challenged to provide an opportunity to identify misconceptions and replace them with improved, more realistic models; and, 2. Students must be provided with opportunities to be self-reflective about their own learning and to help them learn how to learn. Both of these objectives can be achieved by a modular approach to assessing student learning termed a Comprehension Survey. A Comprehension Survey is a modification of an existing teaching strategy known as the Knowledge Survey. Knowledge Surveys are traditionally used as a pre- and post-class assessment tool that asks students to self-assess their level of understanding about a range of topics. A Comprehension Survey takes this process one step further, asking students to complete formative assignments prior to or during class to directly measure their level of understanding.

A Comprehension Survey asks students to review four statements and to select the statement that they believe represents the best description of their understanding of the material covered in class. Each statement is matched with a corresponding question. The statements and questions match progressively higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy ranging from basic comprehension of a key concept to more sophisticated tasks that may ask students to synthesize or evaluate multiple concepts within a given scenario. Students typically work together in groups to identify a common level of understanding by analyzing statements in the Comprehension Survey. During this stage, some students improve their initial level of understanding as a result of peer instruction by other group members. Once an entry level of understanding has been identified, the instructor can ask students to answer the corresponding question. Group responses may be reported in class or collected and reviewed by the instructor to assess student conceptual understanding.