Examining the impact of question surface features on students' answers to constructed-response questions on photosynthesis

TitleExamining the impact of question surface features on students' answers to constructed-response questions on photosynthesis
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsWeston, M, Haudek, KC, Prevost, L, Urban-Lurain, M, Merrill, J
JournalCBE - Life Sciences Education
Volume14
Type of ArticleJournal Article
KeywordsAACR biology education constructed response assessments
AbstractOne challenge in science education assessment is that students often focus on surface features of questions rather than the underlying scientific principles. We investigated how student written re- sponses to constructed-response questions about photosynthesis vary based on two surface features of the question: the species of plant and the order of two question prompts. We asked four versions of the question with different combinations of the two plant species and order of prompts in an in- troductory cell biology course. We found that there was not a significant difference in the content of student responses to versions of the question stem with different species or order of prompts, using both computerized lexical analysis and expert scoring. We conducted 20 face-to-face interviews with students to further probe the effects of question wording on student responses. During the interviews, we found that students thought that the plant species was neither relevant nor confus- ing when answering the question. Students identified the prompts as both relevant and confusing. However, this confusion was not specific to a single version.
DOI10.1187/cbe.14-07-0110

thumbnail of small NSF logo in color without shading

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (DUE grants: 1438739, 1323162, 1347740, 0736952 and 1022653). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.