The Geoscience Concept Inventory

Many people ask me for access to questions that have been developed over time as part of the bank of items that evaluate geoscience understanding. Here are item sets, including links to papers, that have been evaluated using item response theory approaches. This space will be updated as new items sets become available:

  1. Geoscience Concept Inventory Item Bank
  2. Climate Change Concept Inventory Item Set
  3. Earth Systems Science Item Bank

Geoscience Concept Inventory Item Bank
A valid and reliable bank of items designed for diagnosis of alternative conceptions and assessment of learning in entry-level earth science courses. Rasch analysis was used to generate a bank of items aligned with ability.

The online testing system for the GCI is no longer active. A word document containing original GCI items is available here: GCI_v3.April2011_origGCI. Instructors and researchers are encouraged to use these items freely and without restriction. Item numbers correlate to numbers in paper reporting on GCI Rasch analysis: Libarkin, J.C., Anderson, S.W., 2006, The Geoscience Concept Inventory: Application of Rasch Analysis to Concept Inventory Development in Higher Education: in Applications of Rasch Measurement in Science Education, ed. X. Liu and W. Boone: JAM Publishers, p. 45-73: LibarkinandAnderson2006

DESCRIPTION: The Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI) is a multiple-choice assessment instrument for use in the Earth sciences classroom. The GCI v.1.0 consisted of 69 validated questions that could be selected by an instructor to create a customized 15-question GCI subtest for use in their course. These test items cover topics related to general physical geology concepts, as well as underlying fundamental ideas in physics and chemistry, such as gravity and radioactivity, that are integral to understanding the conceptual Earth. Each question has gone through rigorous reliability and validation studies. Over TWENTY colleagues have contributed new questions to the item bank, bringing the number of available, high quality questions to almost 200.

We built the the GCI using the most rigorous methodologies available, including scale development theory, grounded theory, and item response theory (IRT). To ensure inventory validity we incorporated a mixed methods approach using advanced psychometric techniques not commonly used in developing content-specific assessment instruments. We conducted ~75 interviews with college students, collected nearly 1000 open-ended questionnaires, grounded test content in these qualitative data, and piloted test items at over 40 institutions nationwide, with ~5000 student participants.

In brief, the development of the GCI involved interviewing students, collecting open-ended questionnaires, generating test items based upon student responses, soliciting external review of items by both scientists and educators, pilot testing of items, analysis of items via standard factor analysis and item response theory, “Think Aloud” interviews with students during test piloting, revision, re-piloting, and re-analysis of items iteratively. Although time consuming, the resulting statistical rigor of the items on an IRT scale suggest that the methods we have used constitute highly valid practice for assessment test development.

Climate Change Concept Inventory Item Set

A valid and reliable assessment instrument designed for diagnosis of alternative conceptions and assessment of learning around climate change conceptions. Rasch analysis was used to validate the alignment of the item set with ability.

Two publications document the utility of this measure with respect to the general public and college students. Both studies considered the impact of conceptual understanding, affect and world views on risk perception.

a) College students: Aksit, O., McNeal, K., Gold, A., Libarkin, J., Harris, S., 2018, The influence of instruction, prior knowledge, and values on climate change risk perception among undergraduates: Journal of Research in Science Teaching, v. 55, p. 550–572.

b) General public: Libarkin, J.C., Gold, A., Harris, S., McNeal, K., Bowles, R., 2018, A new, valid measure of climate change understanding: Associations with risk perception: Climatic Change., v. 150(3), p. 403-416.

Earth Systems Science Item Bank
A valid and reliable bank of items designed for diagnosis of alternative conceptions and assessment of learning around Earth’s spheres. Rasch analysis was used to evaluate the relationship of ability to items and to allow comparison of understanding within one sphere to another.

Publication of results and items is ongoing.

Learn more about geocognition and geoscience education research.