(589c) A Framework for Developing Concept Questions for Active Learning in Large Classes

Koretsky, M. D., Oregon State University
Nolen, S., University of Washington
Self, B., California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
Prince, M., Bucknell University
We present the process for developing content for the Concept Warehouse (CW), a technology-based tool to facilitate concept-based active learning in mechanical engineering. Concept-based active learning has been shown to improve student performance, especially for traditionally underrepresented students, and to increase academic retention of students in STEM programs. The CW provides three distinct but complementary functions: (a) a content repository, (b) an audience response system to deliver content, and (c) learning analytics that provide data to instructors and researchers. Content in the form of approximately 3,000 ConcepTests, 10 research-based Concept Inventories, and several Inquiry-Based Activities and Virtual Laboratories are now available for ChE. After ~4 years of existence, over 1,000 faculty members at over 150 institutions across the US and internationally are using it.

High quality content is critical for effective concept-based instruction. One of the seven overarching principles for question-design (Koretsky et al., 2014), is the Emergent Use Principle: The tool should provide versatility in how questions can be deployed in instruction so that instructors can use them in ways that best fit their beliefs and context. Correspondingly, questions should enable faculty to intersperse formative assessment during more traditional lecture, but also enable those who take a question-cycle (Beatty et al., 2006) approach. In this approach, questions become a central tool of instruction and class time is spent around discussion, arguing, and sense-making. Use of the tool can also include having students write justifications to their selected multiple-choice answer, preparing them to engage in discussion. Thus, the questions are inherently tools of learning through engagement and interaction mediated by the instructor.

Consequently, the nature of effective questions for concept-based active learning can be quite different than those used in formal summative assessments (e.g., concept inventories, standardized tests). We have developed a process for question development that explicitly identifies three goals:

  • Content goal: What disciplinary concept or big idea do we want to illuminate?
  • Process goal: How must the students use the concept/big idea? What cognitive skills do we want students to exercise?
  • Epistemological goal: What ideas about learning and doing engineering do we wish to reinforce?

We present questions with similar content goals but different process and epistemological goals to illustrate the ways question design and intent of instruction interact. While these goals were used for concept-based instruction, we will discuss how they can be applied to other student-centered active learning pedagogies.

Beatty, I. D et al. (2006). American journal of physics, 74(1), 31-39.

Koretsky, M.D et al. (2014). Advances in Engineering Education, 4(1).