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

Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 3:35 PM


WIRTH, Karl R., Geology Department, Macalester College, 1600 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105, PERKINS, Dexter, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, University of North Dakota, Box 8358, Grand Forks, ND 58202 and NUHFER, Ed, Center for Teaching and Learning, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID 83209, wirth@macalester.edu

Recent educational trends place greater emphasis on assessment, including the assessment of learning and the evaluation of courses and programs. Learning involves both affective and cognitive components. Many traditional assessment tools (e.g., quizzes and exams) generally cover only a narrow range of course content and are not well suited for assessing higher-level understanding and skills. An ideal assessment tool: (1) can be used to provide formative assessments of student understanding; (2) provides reliable, quantifiable data about student understanding; (3) provides data useful to students' cognitive and meta-cognitive growth; (4) can be used by faculty to understand the effects of curricular changes and innovations; and (5) can be used by faculty and administrators to evaluate curricula and programs. Knowledge surveys meet these criteria, capture data from both cognitive and affective domains, and provide unique information that bridges that of exams and student evaluations.

Knowledge surveys consist of numerous items that cover the full breadth of course learning objectives and levels of understanding (e.g., Bloom levels). Students interact with the survey at the beginning, end, and during the course. Surveys at the beginning of a course provide information on student background and preparation. During the course, surveys are learning guides for students, helping them prepare for exams and reflect on their learning.

Evaluation of knowledge survey responses yields a wealth of both formative and summative information. The instructor can use survey results to monitor student mastery of course content, and to evaluate the effectiveness of methods employed in the classroom. Data from the end of a course, paired with that taken at the start, reflects student-learning gains. Student self-assessment skills can be inferred by comparison of responses from several knowledge surveys and exams. Multi-year results allow direct measure of knowledge retention. Knowledge survey data from required courses allows a unit to examine curricula in ways no other tool provides. Knowledge surveys completed by exiting seniors can be used to evaluate departmental majors and programs.