American Journal of Physics 70(7), 750-758.
Traditional tests are not effective tools for diagnosing the content and structure of students' knowledge of physics. As a possible alternative, a set of term-association tasks (the ConMap tasks) was developed to probe the interconnections within students' store of conceptual knowledge. The tasks have students respond spontaneously to a term or problem or topic area with a sequence of associated terms; the response terms and time-of-entry data are captured. The tasks were tried on introductory physics students, and preliminary investigations show that the tasks are capable of eliciting information about the stucture of their knowledge. Specifically, data gathered through the tasks is similar to that produced by a hand-drawn concept map task, has measures that correlate with in-class exam performance, and is sensitive to learning produced by topic coverage in class. Although the results are preliminary and only suggestive, the tasks warrant further study as student-knowledge assessment instruments and sources of experimental data for cognitive modeling efforts.
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Contains the portions of Ian Beatty's dissertation relevant to assessment of student knowledge, condensed and clarified. A subsequent paper (unpublished) covers the cognitive and modeling components of the dissertation.