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The Problem of Revealing How Students Think: Concept Inventories and Beyond


"If we as university biology instructors are to make progress on the challenge of transforming our novice undergraduates into expert biological thinkers who are scientifically literate, then we all need tools that can aid us in revealing student thinking and in analyzing what we do in the classroom that supports or hinders the development of this scientific literacy in students. This is where classroom assessment--gathering evidence on students' thinking-- is a key part of teaching at any level. ...Here, we give an introduction to a relatively recent addition to the assessment tools in biology--the concept inventory-- address its promising attributes and potential drawbacks, and raise the question of what concept inventories may actually measure. Finally, we consider potential alternative approaches to gaining insight into how students think about biology that come from the chemistry education and physics education research literatures."