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Assessments - Geological Sciences

Developing and validating reliable assessment instruments is a long process involving investigation of student difficulties, designing questions which can reliably uncover these difficulties, interviewing faculty about the appropriateness of the questions, pilot testing with students (both individual interviews and large scale in-class testing), performing statistical analysis, question refinement (addition/change/removal) and re-testing. It takes years of development effort to create and validate reliable assessment instruments and in order to ensure that these assessment instruments do not lose their reliability (for example, by answers showing up in online forums) it is important that:
  1. students are not given copies following administration of the assessment tool and
  2. questions are not incorporated into web-based question delivery systems without adequate security to prevent printing or unauthorized access by students.

Various teaching and learning tools for geosciences can be found at the Geoscience Education Research page.

Content-based assessments
  • The Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI)
  • Volcanic Concept Survey (VCS)
    • Free response survey of 10 questions which tests students’ conceptual understanding of volcanoes
    • Test items and information about student performance on the instrument is available here
    • Detailed information about the development of the instrument and detailed analysis of student responses is available in T. L. Parham’s master thesis
  • Landscape Identification and Formation Test (LIFT)
    • Multiple choice concept inventory for measuring abilities to identify landscapes and their formation timespans
    • More details about the survey and student performance available in this paper
    • All items from the initial version of the survey are available in this A. R. Jolley’s BS honours thesis
  • Greenhouse Effect Concept Inventory (GECI)
    • Conceptual assessment of understanding of the greenhouse effect developed after surveying of free response items of over 900 university students
    • Available in J. M. Keller’s doctoral dissertation (look for GECI.vC – page 392). The dissertation also contains a detailed description and analysis of the items on the inventory.
  • Concept Mapping Assessment of Climate Change
    • Dave Dempsey, from San Francisco University developed a climate change assessment which uses a concept map exercise
    • More information about how to use it available here
  • Earthquake analysis paper
    • Kaatje Kraft, from Mesa Community College has developed an activity for students which requires them to link what they have learned in class to current earthquakes around the world
    • More information available here

Affect and Attitudes about Geology/Science

  • Student Perceptions about Earth Sciences Survey (SPESS)
    • 29 item validated assessment of student perceptions of earth and ocean sciences
    • Paper describing the development and use of the survey which includes the items available here
  • Survey on Geology and General Science Interest
    • Survey developed by faculty members from Dickinson College which can be used to assess student interest in science and geology.
  • Attitudes about Geology and Science
    • Validated assessment of students’ attitudes of science which includes geology-specific questions
    • Items available in the paper describing the development and validation of the instrument
  • Attitudes and Conceptions about Science (ACS)
    • Questionnaire on students attitudes and conceptions about science on three subscales: attitudes towards learning science, attitudes towards science and conceptions of science
    • The questionnaire also includes questions specific to geology
More approaches to assessing Geoscience concepts, skills and attitudes can be found at the Science Education Research Center at Carleton College.
If we missed some assessments developed by geology education researchers, please let us know at