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Recognizing Student Misconceptions through Ed's Tools and the Biology Concept


"Over the past decade, workers in physics education research have developed effective instructional methods and materials (e.g., workshop physics [1]; lecture demonstrations [2]; tutorials in introductory physics [3]) based on research into student thinking. A Socratic process of questioning and careful analysis of responses can reveal students' thinking on a subject area, including misconceptions, prior conceptions, and conceptual lacunae. Applying this approach to biological concepts, we have built a software system, called Ed's Tools, to capture and analyze student responses. Both instructors and researchers can use this system to obtain a more complete and nuanced picture of student understanding, which can then serve as the foundation on which to base subsequent instruction and the construction of concept inventories. We illustrate the value of the data obtained through this analysis by showing how it helped us trace the conceptual problems that students have in two subject areas, molecular biology and evolutionary biology, to a common cause: a fundamental misunderstanding of random processes."