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Bowling, B.V., Acra, E.E., Wang, L., Myers, M.F., Dean, G.E., Markle, G.C., Moskalik, C.L., & Huether, C.A. (2008). Development and evaluation of a genetics literacy assessment instrument for undergraduates. Genetics, 178, 15-22. 

The development of a concept inventory to assess genetics literacy for non-majors is described here. Interestingly, the initial part of development, defining the content and developing test items, describes using established resources as a basis for the material for this concept inventory. The authors describe the reviews by experts and student focus groups used to revise the questions and distractors. The resulting concept inventory was pilot tested and extensively analyzed to determine difficultly, discrimination, validity, and reliability. The method, or is some cases multiple methods, of statistical analysis are described. The results are compared to other concept inventories providing a target range for evaluating items in a newly developed concept inventory. The discussion of how the authors interpret the statistics is useful for understanding the what conclusions can be gained from the results and how the questions might be improved. 

Shi, J., Wood, W.B., Martin, J.M., Guild, N.A., Vicens, Q., & Knight, J.K. (2010). A diagnostic assessment for introductory molecular and cell biology. CBE Life Sci Educ., 9, 453-61. 

In this study the authors report the development of a concept inventory to be used as a pretest and post test to measure student learning gains and content knowledge in an introductory molecular and cell biology course. The development process included identification of learning objectives and writing and revision of questions based on interviews with faculty and students.  The results from a large number and range of students were statistically analyzed to determine item difficulty, item discrimination, and reliability. Interestingly, included in the results and discussion is a comparison of the validity of administering the test in different ways. This article provides a detailed, clear, and practical description of the development and analysis of a biology concept inventory that provides an excellent model for future concept inventory development. In addition, the learning objectives, misconceptions, and questions reported in this article can be used as a source of information for developing a specific biochemistry concept inventory.  


Smith, M.K., Wood, W.B., & Knight, J.K. (2008). The Genetics Concept Assessment: A New Concept Inventory for Gauging Student Understanding of Genetics. CBE Life Sci Educ, 7, 422-430. 

This article describes the development, validation, and analysis of a concept inventory for genetics. The process of interviewing students is described thoroughly and emphasizes the importance of selecting students with a range of academic performance to get a variety of responses that help to evaluate and shape the questions. Since the language of the questions is important, the authors mention that they asked students taking a pilot version of the test to circle any words they did not know to help identify and remove jargon from the questions in addition to using student supplied answers to help develop distractors. Interestingly, one method they use to evaluate the assessment is to show that post-assessment scores and learning gains correlate with exam scores better than pre-test scores demonstrating alignment between the concepts covered by instructor-developed exams and the assessment. The discussion describes the use of statistics from the assessments for different purposes including measuring overall course effectiveness and achievement of specific learning goals, identifying commonly held misconceptions and concepts in which most students gain understanding, compare differences between strong and weak students, and evaluate instructional approaches. 


Villafane, S.M., Loertscher, V., & Lewis, J.E. (2011). Uncovering students’ incorrect ideas about foundational concepts for biochemistry. Chem, Educ. Res. Pract., 12, 210-218. 

 The assessment used here is specifically designed to test common student misconceptions that will interfere with their ability to understand concepts in biochemistry. Instead of focusing on testing concepts that will be covered in the course, this test reveals student understanding that is required for biochemistry so that instructors can give the proper background needed to understand the material if necessary. Importantly, each concept is tested by three multiple choice questions with parallel distractors giving substantial information on how students think about a concept. The detailed analysis of patterns in responses to the questions related to each concept revealed how much understanding changed after the course. Interestingly, a misconception related to alpha-helices resisted change despite a semester of biochemistry suggesting a specific topic for instructors to address in future courses. The paper not only provides information on common misconceptions in biochemistry useful to developing concept inventory questions, but provides a model for using a specifically designed instrument to identify novel misconceptions. 


Wright, T., & Hamilton, S. (2008). Assessing student understanding in the molecular life sciences using a concept inventory.  In: Duff, A., Green, M. and Quinn, D., ATN Assessment Conference Proceedings. Australian Technology Network (ATN) Assessment Conference: Engaging Students in Assessment, Adelaide, South Australia, (216-224). 20-21 November, 2008.  

This paper describes the first stages of the development of a concept inventory to be given at the end of biochemistry and molecular biology coursework. A final report in 2011 to the Australian Learning and Teaching Council entitled “Diagnostic assessment for the biological sciences: development of a concept inventory” contains full description and analysis of the inventory. The authors established ten  “big ideas,” important concepts, and a set of questions for each concept. For initial testing of each question, they used complex multiple choice asking students to answer each statement is true/false or don’t know (to avoid random guessing). The completed inventory, available for students to complete on-line, is reported to contain 100 true/false questions in 30 questions/stems (a unique question format) organized into 6 modules. Interestingly, they discuss adaptive questions in which the difficulty of the question is based on the answer to the previous questions to increase the level of discrimination and decrease the length of the test.  The content of this work is the most similar to the biochemistry concept inventory we plan to develop and therefore is a very valuable source of information on concepts to test, alternative conceptions to focus on, and a source of possible questions and distractors. 


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