Computer based and computer assisted tests to assess procedural and conceptual knowledge
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Computer-based and computer-assisted tests to assess procedural and conceptual knowledge. Richard C. Rayne and Glenn Baggott School of Biological and Chemical Sciences Birkbeck College, University of London, WC1E 7HX, UK r.rayne@bbk.ac.uk. Pedagogical Problem….

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Computer based and computer assisted tests to assess procedural and conceptual knowledge l.jpg

Computer-based and computer-assisted tests to assess procedural and conceptual knowledge

Richard C. Rayne and Glenn Baggott

School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

Birkbeck College, University of London, WC1E 7HX, UK

r.rayne@bbk.ac.uk


Pedagogical problem l.jpg
Pedagogical Problem… procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • Biosciences are essentially practical and experimental subjects

  • Biosciences undergraduates therefore must develop abilities to:

    • acquire and apply procedural knowledge

    • demonstrate understanding of concepts that underpin procedures

    • use procedural knowledge in appropriate contexts; i.e. to develop strategic knowledge within the domain


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Knowledge framework procedural and conceptual knowledge

c.f. Shavelson et al. (2002) EARLI/Northumbria Conference keynote address


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Declarative knowledge… procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • “Knowing that…”

    • a fact-base, or knowledge store


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Procedural knowledge… procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • “Knowing how to do something”

  • Consists of…

    • if/then rules

    • sequence of steps

  • Calls upon…

    • declarative knowledge


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Schematic knowledge… procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • Having a scientifically justifiable conception, i.e. “knowing why”

  • May be used to…

    • interpret problems

    • troubleshoot

    • explain an outcome

    • predict an outcome

  • Depends on…

    • having an understanding of principles

      • “conceptual knowledge” = combination of declarative and procedural knowledge


Strategic knowledge l.jpg
Strategic knowledge… procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • Knowing when, where and how to use certain types of knowledge in a new situation

    • conditional knowledge, strategies

      • what strategic knowledge is applicable here?

    • essential for solving new problems


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“Conceptual knowledge”…* procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • a subset of schematic knowledge

    • taken to equate to “understanding the basis for a particular procedure”

* as I have used in the abstract


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Knowledge framework procedural and conceptual knowledge

c.f. Shavelson et al. (2002) EARLI/Northumbria Conference keynote address


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A key aim… procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • Exploit the strengths of CBA to promote development of procedural and conceptual knowledge in biosciences students

  • Context…

    • first-year module: Molecular Cell Biology

    • using “case-based” approaches in different forms


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Two Approaches procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • TRIADS CBA focusing on a “classic experiment”

    • Meselson-Stahl experiment: outcome simple, but to appreciate its power requires understanding of several sophisticated principles

  • CaseIT! simulation software

    • to teach and assess procedural and conceptual knowledge of key molecular biology techniques

    • http://www.uwrf.edu/caseit/caseit.html


Caseit l.jpg
CaseIT! procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • Virtual molecular biology lab

    • “apparatus” for performing separation of DNA fragments and for identification of specific DNA sequences

    • apply molecular biology techniques in the context of a case study of human genetic disease

      • must perform a Southern blot…


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Southern Blot Procedure procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • Component tasks

    • obtain DNA sample and select enzyme

    • perform reaction to digest the DNA

    • load sample onto electrophoresis gel

    • run gel; stain and destain

    • transfer DNA from gel to a membrane

    • select radioactive hybridisation probe and apply to membrane

    • reveal specific DNA sequences by exposing membrane to X-ray film


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Movie procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • CaseIT in action


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Computer-Assisted Test procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • t0 = Introduction to techniques and to CaseIT! (demonstrated in lecture)

  • t+1 = Classroom session, hands-on (3 h)

    • students work on cases involving Southern blotting as the key technique

  • t+5= Test session

    • paper-based test with unseen case

    • must use CaseIT to obtain results

    • test items (short answer responses) depend on correctly performing Southern blot


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Why did we do it? procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • History

    • In 2002, only 4 of 40 students correctly answered an item on a TRIADS exam which required understanding of the Southern blot procedure

    • For 2003, we devised and used the CaseIT test; it was used again in 2004

  • CaseIT! Test Results

    • 2003 & 2004: extremely poor on the whole

      • 2004 mean = 42%

      • 30 of 66 got <35%!

    • but 61 of 66 (in 2004) were able to perform the Southern blot procedure correctly

  • TRIADS Item, 2004

    • 18 of 57 scored 100%


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Southern blot TRIADS item procedural and conceptual knowledge


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Summary procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • CaseIT! provides a reasonably realistic analogue of “real” lab techniques

    • helps build understanding of rationale/ approach in “fail-safe” environment

  • The CaseIT! test “forced” students to learn blot procedure!

    • have to learn a logical sequence of procedures that mimics the learning required in the “real” situation

  • CAA/CBA need not be a “test given on a computer”


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Acknowledgements procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • Funding:

    • Birkbeck College Development Fund

    • Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) through FDTL4

  • People at Birkbeck:

    • Authorware Programmers: Dijana Maric, Ellen McCarthy, Caroline Pellet-Many

  • People elsewhere:

    • Don Mackenzie and his team at the Centre for Interactive Assessment Development, University of Derby

    • Mark Bergland, author of CaseIT!, University of Wisconsin-River Falls


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References procedural and conceptual knowledge

Bergland M., et al. (2004) DNA Electrophoresis Module for CaseIT!, version 4.0.2. http://www.uwrf.edu/caseit/caseit.html

Shavelson, R.J., Li, M., and Ruiz-Primo, M.A. (2002) Evaluating new approaches to assessing learning. Keynote address to the Joint Northumbria/EARLI Assessment Conference, Newcastle, UK. August 2002.http://www.stanford.edu/dept/SUSE/SEAL/Presentation/Presentation.htm


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Contact procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • Dr Richard Rayne

    • Lecturer in Biology and Director of the OLAAF ProjectSchool of Biological & Chemical SciencesBirkbeck CollegeUniversity of LondonMalet StreetLondon WC1E 7HX, United Kingdom+44 (0)20 7631-6253r.rayne@bbk.ac.uk

  • OLAAF web site:

    • http://www.bbk.ac.uk/olaaf/


Meselson stahl experiment l.jpg
Meselson-Stahl Experiment procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • Outcome:

    • DNA replication is semi-conservative in bacteria

  • Component knowledge/understanding required to understand the experiment:

    • what is an isotope?

    • what is density?

    • how does a centrifuge work?

    • how to separate molecules based on their density? (density gradient centrifugation)


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TRIADS CBA procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • 2004: text and supplementary written materials provided

    • 5 items on TRIADS exam; 1 comprehension + 2 application + 2 problem solving

  • 2005: TRIADS tutorial to replace (or supplement) the paper materials

    • uses animations to demonstrate concepts visually

    • will test basic understanding at “component level” (i.e. concept-by-concept)

      • Recall Qs precede Comprehension Qs

      • Achievement: must answer lower level to proceed

    • same items as in 2004 to be used on exam to probe conceptual understanding


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M-S 1.1 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 1.2 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 1.3 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 2.1 procedural and conceptual knowledge


M s 2 2 l.jpg
M-S 2.2 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 2.3 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 3.1 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 3.2 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 3.3 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 4.1 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 4.2 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 4.3 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 5.1 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 5.2 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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M-S 5.3 procedural and conceptual knowledge


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Assessment Development Model procedural and conceptual knowledge


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Cognitive type inventory procedural and conceptual knowledge

  • ReCAP*

    • Recall

    • Comprehension

    • Application

    • Problem solving

      (= analysis + synthesis + evaluation)

      * Imrie (1995) Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 20 (2): 175-189.


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Southern blot item 2 procedural and conceptual knowledge