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The online testing system for the GCI is no longer active.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.

New paper published in Journal of Geoscience Education

The Geocognition Research Lab is happy to announce a new paper published in the February issue of the Journal of Geoscience Education:

by Steven W. Anderson and Julie C. Libarkin

ABSTRACT: Nationwide pre- and post-testing of introductory courses with the Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI) shows little gain for many of its questions. Analysis of more than 3,500 tests shows that 22 of the 73 GCI questions had gains of <0.03, and nearly half of these focused on basic physics and chemistry. We also discovered through an assessment of nearly 500 matched pre- and posttests that students were less likely to change answers on basic physics and chemistry questions than they were on those for the geosciences, with many of the low-gain geoscience questions showing switch rates that were similar to that expected for guessing. These results also pertain to the high-scoring pretest students, suggesting that little geoscience conceptual entrenchment occurs for many students enrolled in entry-level courses. Switching rates for physics and chemistry questions were well below the rates associated with geosciences questions, suggesting greater entrenchment. We suggest that students may have difficulty settling on a correct geoscience conception because of the shaky, more entrenched supporting science underpinnings upon which Earth Science ideas are built. These results prompt the following questions: (1) When do our geology majors learn fundamental science concepts if little learning occurs in the introductory courses? (2) What role does the introductory course play in this eventual learning? (3) What strategies can be employed in introductory courses to enhance learning for those students who will only take one college-level geosciences course? We suggest that longitudinal studies of geosciences majors are needed for periods longer than a semester and that more attention be paid to when conceptual change occurs for our majors.

The Power of Stepping Away

I gave myself 10 days (mostly) away from work this summer. I had almost forgotten what it was like to go a day without checking email, fielding phone calls, talking to students, and staring at my computer screen. I have to admit that I really liked it – I  read three novels, played with my son, saw parts of South Dakota I’ve never been to, and gave my brain a rest. I’m both happy and sad to be back at work – I feel reinvigorated and ready to tackle writing projects with end-of-summer deadlines, and I’m excited to start working with two new graduate students. At the same time, I will miss the freedom that comes with just being, instead of always being on. It is powerful to step away – more of my academic colleagues should try it!

Spring 2015 Edition: Earthquakes…And tornadoes…And floods…

Geocognition research into how people make decisions about the planet could save lives. Although many people may not realize it, the geosciences are vitally important to our society – for examples, geoscientists find the precious metals that we need for modern technology, find clean water and identify sources of water contamination, predict the impacts of climate change from coastal communities to the high mountains, and investigate the myriad natural hazards that exist on the planet. If only the geosciences were a bigger part of our high school curriculum…perhaps people would have a better understanding of what to do during and after an earthquake, a tornado, or a flash flood. These natural hazards can be dangerous, but good decision-making can make the difference between life and death.

Paper in Press, available online: Visual Representations on High School Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Physics Assessments

The GRL is pleased to announce that a new publication “Visual Representations on High School Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Physics Assessments” is in press and available through Springer’s online pre-publication system: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10956-015-9566-4. Congratulations to the paper’s first author, former graduate student and now Assistant Professor Nicole LaDue.

GEOSPHERE: Special Theme Issue on Human Dimensions in Geoscience

GEOSPHERE is an online journal published by the Geological Society of America (ISI impact = 2.7). The Human Dimensions in Geoscience theme is intended to bring together research that sits at the boundary between geoscience, broadly construed, and social science. This offers an opportunity for communication, education, sociology, anthropology, or similar scholars to interact with each other and reach mainstream scientists. I would personally love to see work from many different communities come together in GEOSPHERE to help build connections across different, yet very similar, research fields.

INVITING SUBMISSIONS TO GEOSPHERE THEME: HUMAN DIMENSIONS IN THE GEOSCIENCE
GEOSPHERE – a journal of the Geological Society of America – periodically runs theme-specific issues. These issues contain collections of articles devoted to the same topic or region and span multiple issues of the journal. Papers are published in regular Geosphere issues as they are accepted, and then each themed issue appears on a separate web page where all themed-issue papers are grouped. Theme issues remain open for two or more years and submissions are accepted on a rolling basis, allowing authors to submit manuscripts as work is completed rather than to meet a specific deadline.

The Call for Papers : http://geosphere.gsapubs.org/site/misc/smargin.xhtml#Human%20Dimensions%20in%20Geoscience

HUMAN DIMENSIONS IN THE GEOSCIENCE
Guest Editors:
Julie Libarkin
Renee Clary
Suzanne O’Connell

This themed issue will focus on the research that occurs at the interface between geoscience, broadly construed, and social science. Political science, education, history, philosophy, communication, information science, diversity studies, and similar fields can help illuminate some of the most vexing issues facing the geosciences. Best practices for communicating climate science, for example, emerge when deep understanding of geoscience intersects graphic design. Similarly, the solutions to the immediate and future need to train more geoscience students may lie in lessons already learned by diversity and access scholars. This special issue will provide a venue for researchers investigating human dimensions in geoscience to share research findings with each other and the broader geoscience community. We encourage submission of high quality research that sits at the interface between geoscience and social science, including science communication, science policy, history and philosophy of science, learning in formal and informal settings, diversity in science, and similar fields.

To submit a paper for this issue, go to www.editorialmanager.com/geosphere/ and be sure to note in your cover letter that this submission is for the “Human Dimensions in Geoscience” themed issue. This special issue will remain open for two years and submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis.

Supporting open discourse about scientists with disabilities

I am a huge fan of the IAGD, an organization started by my good friend, Dr. Chris Atchison. The IAGD promotes “access accommodation, and inclusion for students and geoscientists with disabilities.” By simply existing, the IAGD is helping to open up the geosciences to people with disabilities – simply acknowledging that a disability should not shape a person’s career is a major step forward.

Blogger XOJane has a post dating back to 2012 that is still relevant and important, entitled “Where Are All the Disabled Scientists?” I encourage you to read it if you value diversity in STEM, particularly diversity in all its glorious shapes and sizes!