Conceptests and Peer Instruction

Introduction

Background

Research

References

 

INTRODUCTION

What are ConcepTests? ConcepTests are conceptual multiple-choice questions that focus on one key concept of an instructor's learning goals for a lesson. When coupled with student interaction through peer instruction, ConcepTests represent a rapid method of formative assessment of student understanding. ConcepTests are products of a teaching strategy known as peer instruction that was initially developed to provide a mechanism for introducing effective active learning strategies into physics lecture classes without having to make acute changes to course content or organization (Mazur, 1997).

ConcepTests are products of a teaching strategy known as peer instruction that was initially developed to provide a mechanism for introducing effective pedagogy into physics lecture classes without having to make acute changes to course content or organization (Mazur, 1997, 2009; Mestre et al., 1997). ConcepTests are higher-order multiple-choice questions that focus on one key concept of an instructor's learning goals for a lesson. When coupled with student interaction through peer instruction, ConcepTests represent a rapid method of formative assessment of student understanding.

To view some short videos of the use of conceptests in an earth science classroom, go to this site at Carleton College. The information presented here is similar to that at Carleton with the exception of some new research results (here) and some information on how to write conceptest questions (Carleton).

Some sample ConcepTests follow. Each ConcepTest was presented during multiple sections of Earth Science classes for non-science majors at a large, open-enrollment Midwestern university. (N = number of student responses.) Correct answers are inidicated by an * symbol. Check out this collection for more ConcepTest examples.

How many plates are illustrated in this image? (N=421)

  1. 2 (2% of students chose this answer)
  2. 3 (13% of students chose this answer)
  3. 4 (16% of students chose this answer)
  4. 5* (57% of students chose this answer)
  5. 6 (12% of students chose this answer)
fake plate map

What is the most likely cooling rate and composition of a light colored, small grained igneous rock? (N=200)

  1. Cooled rapidly, low silica (6% of students chose this answer)
  2. Cooled rapidly, high silica* (70% of students chose this answer)
  3. Cooled slowly, low silica (8% of students chose this answer)
  4. Cooled slowly, high silica (16% of students chose this answer)

rock cycle graphThe graph on the right illustrates how temperature changed with time for part of the rock cycle. Which of the following is best represented by the graph? (N=180)

  1. Sediment is lithified to form sedimentary rock (3% of students chose this answer)
  2. Sedimentary rocks are metamorphosed to form metamorphic rocks (35% of students chose this answer)
  3. Sedimentary rock is converted to magma* (44% of students chose this answer)
  4. Metamorphic rocks are uplifted to Earth's surface (4% of students chose this answer)
  5. Magma cools to form plutonic igneous rock (14% of students chose this answer)

Which statement is the best analogy? (N=147 on first attempt; 157 after peer instruction)

  1. An umbrella is to rain as the stratosphere is to solar radiation. (12% on 1st attempt; 4% after peer instruction)
  2. An umbrella is to rain as the stratosphere is to ultraviolet radiation. (18% on 1st attempt; 5% after peer instruction)
  3. An umbrella is to rain as the ozone layer is to solar radiation. (26% on1st attempt; 11% after peer instruction)
  4. An umbrella is to rain as the ozone layer is to ultraviolet radiation.* (44% on 1st attempt; 80% after peer instruction)
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MEAS Geoscience Education