The Role of Concept Inventories in Course Assessment

  • Julie LibarkinEmail author
  • Sarah E. Jardeleza
  • Teresa L. McElhinny
Part of the Innovations in Science Education and Technology book series (ISET, volume 20)


Development of effective instructional materials, particularly those intended to address strongly held alternative conceptions about the natural world, is difficult. Research suggests that the most effective instruction stems from initial consideration of instructional goals and careful alignment of practice with those goals. Understanding whether or not instruction is effective itself requires development of assessment instruments that are written in direct correspondence to pre-articulated goals. Concept inventories (CIs), multiple-choice tests targeting specific content, are becoming increasingly popular mechanisms for assessing student learning, particularly in the USA. CIs have become popular because they target student alternative conceptions authentically and are relatively easy to implement even to very large lecture courses. The wide array of CIs available both in the USA and internationally reflects the importance that faculty place on addressing student conceptions. CIs can be used as both instructional tools and as research instruments; where used for research, scholars must be careful to evaluate the validity and reliability of the CI being used. In this chapter, we provide evidence of the value of CIs for use in both course and programmatic assessment. In addition, we illustrate the importance of community discourse in ensuring that CIs are appropriate for research.


Conceptual Understanding Programmatic Assessment Summative Assessment Concept Inventory Science Education Community 
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.



 Development of the GCI and initial efforts in building online resources were made possible by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) through grants DUE-0127765, DUE-0350395, DGE-9906479, DUE-0717790, and DUE-0717589. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF. This work was partially funded by the Center for Integrative Studies in General Science (CISGS) in the College of Natural Science at Michigan State University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie Libarkin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sarah E. Jardeleza
    • 3
    • 2
  • Teresa L. McElhinny
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Geocognition Research Laboratory, Department of Geological SciencesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Center for Integrative Studies in General ScienceMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geological SciencesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  4. 4.Department of ZoologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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