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 development, 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. We propose an assessment-design process that 1) provides background knowledge and questions for developers of new “experimentation assessments,” 2) elicits practices of representing experiments with conventional symbol systems, 3) determines how well the assessment reveals expert knowledge, and 4) determines how well the instrument exposes student knowledge and difficulties. To illustrate this process, we developed the Neuron Assessment and coded responses from a scientist and four undergraduate students using the Rubric for Experimental Design and the Concept-Reasoning Mode of representation (CRM) model. Some students demonstrated sound knowledge of concepts and representations. Other students demonstrated difficulty with depicting treatment and control group data or variability in experimental outcomes. Our process, which incorporates an authentic research situation that discriminates levels of visualization and experimentation abilities, shows potential for informing assessment design in other disciplines.
Date of this Version
Dasgupta, A. P., T.R. Anderson, and N. Pelaez. Development of the 'Neuron
Assessment' for Measuring Biology Students¹ Use of Experimental Design
Concepts and Representations. CBE Life Sciences Education 15(2), 2016.