UBC Undergraduate Research

Understanding Geological Time: A Proposed Assessment Mechanism for Beginner and Advanced Geology Students at the University of British Columbia, (Vancouver) Rhajiak, Jamil Ahmed Nizam


Having a firm grasp of geological time is essential to developing a full understanding of the Earth. Many studies have focused on students in the K-12 and entry-level college education systems. The proposed 20 question, mainly multiple-choice, assessment mechanism is designed to probe the understanding of geological time amongst beginner (entry-level college) and advanced (graduating) students in a major‟s geology program. A four step process involving: establishing instructor expectations of students, development of an assessment mechanism from existing resources, think-aloud validation with student volunteers, and an iterative refinement process for the developed assessment mechanism revealed insights on student behaviour and creating multiple-choice tests. Student behaviour is assessed via displayed reasoning acts of recalling facts, posing questions, making evaluations, and pausing. From validation interviews students displayed gaps in their understanding of geoscience terminology and a lack of technical vocabulary when reasoning questions out-loud. The refinement process has revealed the following problems associated with developing multiple-choice questions: unclear wording, emphasis of key words, easily eliminated distractors, limitations on cognitive levels of assessment, use of pre-validated questions outside of their context, and testing multiple concepts in one question. The implementation of this assessment should aid in development of the geology curriculum within the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences at UBC by giving instructors a snapshot of student understanding of geological time. This study serves as a springboard for further scholarly investigations of geology education at UBC.

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