What are Knowledge Surveys?

A standard Knowledge Surveys consists of many questions that cover the entire content of a course. Questions cover all levels of Bloom's scale of thinking. (From low-level to high-level cognition, the scale goes from knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, to synthesis.) Several recent studies have concluded that knowledge surveys provide a more robust and reliable measure of student learning than any other kind of assessment, including traditional exams.

A typical survey may include as many as 200 questions. The key feature of Knowledge Surveys is that students do NOT answer the questions. Instead, they say whether they COULD answer the question and with what degree of confidence. So, students complete the surveys relatively quickly; 200 questions many take 20-30 minutes.

Some instructors create smaller surveys, perhaps involving questions that will be covered on an upcoming exam. Such mini-surveys aid students, providing guidance as they study.

To create a Knowledge Survey, most instructors start by combining questions from old exams, perhaps going back several years, and then eliminating redundant questions. Questions are sorted by topic to make sure that all parts of the class are covered adequately. To ensure that the survey covers all levels of thinking, the instructor scores the questions, classifying them by level of thinking using Bloom's scale. Generally, instructors find that they have too many low-level questions, and so must develop new ones to adequately cover all levels of thinking. Some sample questions, sorted and classified by topic and Bloom level, can be found in the Reference section of this module.