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What are ConcepTests?

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.

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 the example 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 map of plates

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)

What would happen to the average temperature at the equator during our summer if the tilt angle of Earth's axis increased to 27 degrees? (N=384 students)

  1. Temperatures would increase (36% of students chose this answer)
  2. Temperatures would decrease* (52% of students chose this answer)
  3. Temperatures would stay the same (12% of students chose this answer)

The introduction of ConcepTests into a standard geoscience classroom requires minimal to modest changes to the instructional environment depending on the number of questions used, the length of time devoted to student discussions, and whether they are coupled with classroom demonstrations (see McConnell et al., 2006). The combination of ConcepTests and peer instruction yield many of the recognized principles of effective teaching that enhance student learning.




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