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Classroom Assessment Techniques
Conceptual Diagnostic Tests

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Michael Zeilik
Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of New Mexico

Michael Zeilik

"...For years I had thought that the real measure of the effectiveness of a course was the gains of the students, from their "initial condition" at entry to their "final state" at the end...Candace Schau...convinced me that we needed a "misconceptions measure" for a pre- and post-test...We labored on the Astronomy Diagnostic Test (ADT) for four semesters...I did not realize until a year after the final effort that we were developing the astronomical version of something like the Force Concept Inventory... "

To assess how well students understand key concepts in a SMET field prior to, during, and after instruction.

A test with items in a multiple-choice or short-answer format that has been designed with common misconceptions in mind.


Instructor Preparation Time: Minimal for using available tests; moderate for designing your own questions.
Preparing Your Students: Nothing special.
Class Time: At least 30 minutes for a complete test.
Disciplines: Appropriate for all.
Class Size: Small and large.
Special Classroom/Technical Requirements: Machine scoring of scannable forms.
Individual or Group Involvement: Either.
Analyzing Results: Can be machine scored for large classes; diagnostic tests are generally not graded.
Other Things to Consider: Need to match tests to course goals.

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