Beyond Conceptual Inventories: Lessons from a Large-Scale Assessment

Beth Thacker, Ganesh Chapagain, Keith H West, Vanelet Rusuriye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report on the free-response (FR) component of a large-scale assessment at a large university. It has become common to use conceptual inventories not just for the assessment of students’ understanding for research purposes, but for the assessment of courses, curricula, and pedagogies. However, it can be argued that these instruments are insufficient. They are not comprehensive and are limited in their assessment of skills beyond conceptual understanding, such as mathematical and laboratory skills, thinking skills, and explanatory ability. In large classes, these skills often go unassessed, partially due to the predominance of multiple-choice (MC) assessment. The MC assessment format limits an instructor’s ability to assess more complex problem solving skills, thought processes, students’ explanatory abilities and writing skills. This raises the question as to whether or not, students even develop these skills, if they are not assessed. We explored this and the related issues through
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
JournalUS-China Education Review A
StatePublished - Jan 2017


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