Professor publishes two research papers on designing assessments

Dr. Sonia Underwood, Chemistry and Biochemistry
STEM Transformation Institute

Plos One paper introduces science faculty to a protocol to assist with designing assessments. Building upon work from the National Research Council, this paper examines how assessment questions can be constructed to focus on what we want students to know and do with the knowledge they learn in their courses. It introduces faculty to the Three-Dimensional Learning Assessment Protocol (3D-LAP), which can be used to help chemistry, biology, and physics faculty with the development of rich assessment questions that incorporate disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts (e.g. energy, structure and function, etc.), and scientific practices (e.g. explanation, modeling, etc.).

Characterizing College Science Assessments: The Three-Dimensional Learning Assessment Protocol

James T. Laverty , Sonia M. Underwood, Rebecca L. Matz, Lynmarie A. Posey, Justin H. Carmel, Marcos D. Caballero, Cori L. Fata-Hartley, Diane Ebert-May, Sarah E. Jardeleza, Melanie M. Cooper
Published: September 8, 2016, http:/dx.doi.org10.1371/journal.pone.0162333

Abstract: Many calls to improve science education in college and university settings have focused on improving instructor pedagogy. Meanwhile, science education at the K-12 level is undergoing significant changes as a result of the emphasis on scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. This framework of “three-dimensional learning” is based on the literature about how people learn science and how we can help students put their knowledge to use. Recently, similar changes are underway in higher education by incorporating three-dimensional learning into college science courses. As these transformations move forward, it will become important to assess three-dimensional learning both to align assessments with the learning environment, and to assess the extent of the transformations. In this paper we introduce the Three-Dimensional Learning Assessment Protocol (3D-LAP), which is designed to characterize and support the development of assessment tasks in biology, chemistry, and physics that align with transformation efforts. We describe the development process used by our interdisciplinary team, discuss the validity and reliability of the protocol, and provide evidence that the protocol can distinguish between assessments that have the potential to elicit evidence of three-dimensional learning and those that do not.

Journal of Chemical Education paper shows how the question prompt on an assessment impacts student responses about acid-base reactions. Selected as ACS Editors’ Choice, this paper highlights that the type of question posed (or prompt) to students is influential in eliciting their mechanistic understanding (how and why things happen). When prompting students both for what is happening during a chemical reaction as well why the reaction occurred, students provided more sophisticated responses which depicted more of a mechanistic understanding of acid-base reactions.

Investigating Students’ Reasoning about Acid–Base Reactions

Melanie M. Cooper, Hovig Kouyoumdjian, and Sonia M. Underwood
Published: (web) August 11, 2016, http:/pubs.acs.orgdoi/abs/10.1021/acs.jchemed.6b00417

Abstract: Acid–base chemistry is central to a wide range of reactions. If students are able to understand how and why acid–base reactions occur, it should provide a basis for reasoning about a host of other reactions. Here, we report the development of a method to characterize student reasoning about acid–base reactions based on their description of what happens during the reaction, how it happens, and why it happens. We show that we can reliably place student responses into categories that reflect the model of acid–base reactivity used and whether the students invoke an electrostatic causal argument. However, the quality of student responses is highly dependent on the structure of the task prompt, which must be structured to provide students with enough information for them to understand what is needed. In general, students who construct responses that invoke a causal mechanistic Lewis model are more likely to draw appropriate curved arrow reaction mechanisms.