P316: Probing students’ prior knowledge of course topics
In a Science Capstone course required of future elementary teachers, we have focused on several of the unifying themes of science: models, energy, scale, change and constancy. To determine what conceptions and misconceptions students bring to the unifying theme for each course, we have conducted many different types of assessments including pen and pencil surveys featuring short answer, open-ended or Likert scale responses; drawings; and concept maps. Some of these were located in the literature; others we created ourselves. Our assessments were usually given in a pre/post format. Pre-assessment data were used to inform the instructional content of the course. We made sure to address incorrect understandings revealed on the pre assessments and addressed some topics at a deeper level based on student knowledge. Post-assessment data were used to assess the impact of instructional decisions on student learning and to provide evidence for course and program changes. In this presentation, we will provide examples of different types of assessment methods. Using our own experiences in a Science Capstone focused on the theme of scientific models, we will also discuss how to evaluate assessment methods and how to modify methods to match instructional goals.