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Click-On-Diagram Questions: a New Tool to Study Conceptions Using Classroom Response Systems

Abstract

Geoscience instructors depend upon photos, diagrams, and other visualizations to depict geologic structures and processes that occur over a wide range of temporal and spatial scales. This proof-of-concept study tests click-on-diagram (COD) questions, administered using a classroom response system (CRS), as a research tool for identifying spatial misconceptions. First, we propose a categorization of spatial conceptions associated with geoscience concepts. Second, we implemented the COD questions in an undergraduate introductory geology course. Each question was implemented three times: pre-instruction, post-instruction, and at the end of the course to evaluate the stability of students’ conceptual understanding. We classified each instance as (1) a false belief that was easily remediated, (2) a flawed mental model that was not fully transformed, or (3) a robust misconception that persisted despite targeted instruction. Geographic Information System (GIS) software facilitated spatial analysis of students’ answers. The COD data confirmed known misconceptions about Earth’s structure, geologic time, and base level and revealed a novel robust misconception about hot spot formation. Questions with complex spatial attributes were less likely to change following instruction and more likely to be classified as a robust misconception. COD questions provided efficient access to students’ conceptual understanding. CRS-administered COD questions present an opportunity to gather spatial conceptions with large groups of students, immediately, building the knowledge base about students’ misconceptions and providing feedback to guide instruction.

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Acknowledgements

The authors appreciate assistance from Kerri Gefeke and Sheldon Turner for assisting with the ArcGIS analysis protocol, Mark Howland for re-drafting the graphics used for the CRS questions, Allison Jaeger for input on the COD questions, Mia Velazquez for generating the figures, and Doug Lombardi for thoughtful suggestions on this manuscript.

Funding

This study was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (Grant 1640800). Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by NIU’s PI Academy and National Science Foundation grant 1640800 to TFS & NDL.

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Correspondence to Nicole D. LaDue.

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LaDue, N.D., Shipley, T.F. Click-On-Diagram Questions: a New Tool to Study Conceptions Using Classroom Response Systems. J Sci Educ Technol 27, 492–507 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-018-9738-0

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Keywords

  • Clickers
  • Diagrams
  • Conceptions
  • Mental models
  • Spatial thinking
  • Geology