Using Content Pre- and Post-Testing in a Geoscience Class for Pre-Service Teachers

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Conference Proceeding

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For the last two years, I have been using the Geoscience Concept Inventory (developed by Libarkin and Anderson) to test content knowledge in students entering and completing GL 345, a geology class intended for pre-service teachers. I was told to teach the class using the sort of approach that a K-12 teacher should be using, emphasizing hands-on, inquiry-based techniques and a minimal reliance on lecture and textbook reading. Since many of the exercises I used were new and somewhat untested, I decided that I had better assess content mastery carefully. Were these inquiry-based exercises actually increasing students' content knowledge?

When I compared the scores from the pre- and post-tests at the end of my first quarter of GL 345, I at least had the encouragement of seeing most of the scores go up. The students really did learn something about plate tectonics and Earth history! Every time I've taught GL 345 I make adjustments, and I need to know which activities and resources are effective. For example, I've added more challenging projects so that students who enter with a strong geoscience background show a decent score increase at the end.

The pre-test results are immediately useful. I use the test results to select groups. Student cooperative groups should be diverse with respect to starting content knowledge, so that students with a head start can help those that are less prepared and less confident.

Recently, I've started using the data to answer questions that the administration can make informed decisions about our courses. There was a suggestion to split GL 345 into two separate classes: one to teach the middle-school science specialists and one to teach the early-childhood and non-science teachers. But my pretest data indicate that middle-school science specialists include some, but not all, students with strong starting geoscience backgrounds, and some have relatively weak geoscience backgrounds, much like the other kinds of students.


Presented at the 40th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America North-Central Section, Akron, OH.

Paper Number 7-2.

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