Cutting Edge > Rates and Time > Assessing Learning > Baseline Assessment

Baseline Assessment

This web page is based on a document produced by Joann Hochstein and Gwen Daley at the 2012 workshop on Teaching About Time.

Introduction

Students enter our classrooms with a wide range of backgrounds. One strategy for finding out where your students are starting from is to give them a "baseline assessment" at the beginning of the term. While this assessment should not be graded, you can offer students credit for completing it. The assessment questions below are designed to allow you to assess your students' prior knowledge about geologic rates and time (including misconceptions they may have), and also the math skills and chemistry they are likely to need as they learn about rates and time. This is not intended to be a definitive list; rather, it is intended to serve as a set of example questions. You may wish to use some or all of these as is, modify them, add your own, or make an entirely new assessment, depending on your students and course content. Additional questions may be found in the Geologic Concept Inventory (GCI) .

An additional option is to ask your students to rate their confidence in their answers. For each question, you could ask, "How sure are you of your answer?"

  1. I know
  2. I think I heard this
  3. I am guessing

Example Assessment Questions

  1. How old is the Earth?
    • 15 billion years old
    • 4.6 billion years old
    • 540 million years old
    • 5.2 million years old
    • 6 thousand years old
  2. Which of the following best describes the structure of an atom?
    • Electrons orbit around the nucleus, which is composed of protons and neutrons
    • Neutrons orbit around the nucleus, which is composed of protons and electrons
    • Protons orbit around the nucleus, which is composed of neutrons and electrons
    • Protons and electrons orbit around the nucleus, which is composed of neutrons
  3. Earth's tectonic plates move relative to each other at rates of approximately:
    • Less than 1 millimeter per year
    • A few centimeters per year
    • Up to 1 meter per year
    • Several meters per year
  4. What is 10 x 10 x 10?
    • 100
    • 1000
    • 10000
    • 100000
    • 1000000
  5. Rocks at the Earth's surface were formed:
    • When the Earth formed
    • At different times throughout Earth's history
    • Within the last 2 million years
    • After the last Ice Age
  6. What are isotopes?
    • Two atoms of the same element, with different numbers of neutrons
    • Two atoms of the same element, with different numbers of protons
    • Two atoms of the same element, with different numbers of electrons
    • Two atoms of the same element, with different atomic numbers
  7. Which of the following types of organisms first appeared on the Earth?
    • Dinosaurs
    • Insects
    • Trees
    • Fish
    • They all appeared at the same time.
  8. Which of the following is the correct formula for calculating a rate?
    • Rate = Speed x Time
    • Rate = Distance x Time
    • Rate = Speed / Time
    • Rate = Distance / Time
  9. Earth's mountain ranges were formed:
    • When the Earth formed
    • At different times throughout Earth's history
    • Within the last 2 million years
    • After the last Ice Age
  10. What is a half-life?
    • Half of the length of time it takes for a sample of radioactive material to become safe (non-radioactive)
    • The length of time it takes for half of a sample of radioactive material to undergo radioactive decay
    • Half of the length of time it takes for a radioactive atom to undergo radioactive decay
    • The length of time it takes for half of an atom to undergo radioactive decay
  11. We cannot use radiocarbon dating to determine the age of a rock that is more than a million years old. Why not?
    • Radiocarbon dating doesn't work on rocks.
    • After a million years, there wouldn't be any daughter isotope remaining in the rock.
    • After a million years, there wouldn't be any parent isotope remaining in the rock.
    • Radiocarbon dating doesn't determine ages.
  12. You are given a timeline that has a scale of one inch equals ten years and asked to make a timeline twice as large as the original one. On your new timeline, ten years will be
    • 1 inch
    • 2 inches
    • 1/2 inch
  13. Which of the following best describes the Earth's climate history?
    • The Earth's atmosphere was hottest when the planet formed, and it has been cooling ever since.
    • The Earth's atmosphere has been both warmer and cooler than it is now, but the current rate of warming is unprecedented.
    • The Earth's atmosphere now is hotter than it has ever been in the past.
    • We have no way of knowing what the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere has been in the past.

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