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Development of the Neuron Assessment for Measuring Biology Students’ Use of Experimental Design Concepts and Representations



Researchers, instructors, and funding bodies in biology education are unanimous about the importance of developing students' competence in experimental design. Despite this, only limited measures are available for assessing such competence, especially in the areas of molecular and cellular biology. Also, existing assessments do not measure how well students use standard symbolism to visualize biological experiments. For her doctoral work with Nancy Pelaez, Convener of the Purdue Biology Education Area for Scholarship and Teaching (BEAST), Annwesa Dasgupta developed an assessment-design process with

  1. background knowledge and questions for developers of new "experimentation assessments,"
  2. prompts to elicit practices of representing experiments with conventional symbol systems,
  3. a validation phase to determine how well the assessment reveals expert knowledge, and
  4. case studies to determine how well the instrument exposes student knowledge and difficulties.

To illustrate this process, this research paper reports on the development of "the Neuron Assessment" with responses scored using the Rubric for Experimental Design (Dasgupta, Anderson, & Pelaez, CBE-LSE 13: 265-284, 2014). Acknowledgment for this work goes to Purdue faculty members Drs. David Eichinger, Jeff Karpicke, and Dennis Minchella for their insightful advice, and to Dr. Peter Hollenbeck for sharing knowledge that led to the research problem for the Neuron Assessment. By demonstrating how an authentic research situation can be incorporated to discriminate levels of visualization and experimentation abilities, this paper aims to inform assessment design in biology and other science research disciplines.

Annwesa P. Dasgupta, Trevor R. Anderson, and Nancy J. Pelaez
Development of the Neuron Assessment for Measuring Biology Students' Use of Experimental Design Concepts and Representations
CBE Life Sci Educ June 1, 2016 15:ar10; doi:10.1187/cbe.15-03-0077

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