Science & Education

, 19:21 | Cite as

Scientific Caricatures in the Earth Science Classroom: An Alternative Assessment for Meaningful Science Learning

  • Renee M. Clary
  • James H. Wandersee


Archive-based, historical research of materials produced during the Golden Age of Geology (1788–1840) uncovered scientific caricatures (SCs) which may serve as a unique form of knowledge representation for students today. SCs played important roles in the past, stimulating critical inquiry among early geologists and fueling debates that addressed key theoretical issues. When historical SCs were utilized in a large-enrollment college Earth History course, student response was positive. Therefore, we offered SCs as an optional assessment tool. Paired t-tests that compared individual students’ performances with the SC option, as well as without the SC option, showed a significant positive difference favoring scientific caricatures (α = 0.05). Content analysis of anonymous student survey responses revealed three consistent findings: (a) students enjoyed expressing science content correctly but creatively through SCs, (b) development of SCs required deeper knowledge integration and understanding of the content than conventional test items, and (c) students appreciated having SC item options on their examinations, whether or not they took advantage of them. We think that incorporation of SCs during assessment may effectively expand the variety of methods for probing understanding, thereby increasing the mode validity of current geoscience tests.


Earth History Examination Score Alternative Assessment Unit Assessment Mode Validity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeosciencesMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational Theory, Policy, and PracticeLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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