Collaborative Research: Creating assessments for student understanding of core chemistry ideas in introductory biology

To address biological problems, students must apply and integrate chemistry principles with biology principles, yet existing science assessments in introductory biology courses often encourage rote memorization and assess factual recall. The recently published Framework for K-12 Science Education report from the National Research Council offers a way of thinking about science education aimed at positively affecting students' abilities to use their knowledge and make connections across disciplines. This vision integrates three dimensions: 1) disciplinary core ideas (what students really need to know); 2) crosscutting concepts (themes across science disciplines); and 3) scientific practices (how students should use their knowledge).

The integration of these dimensions is referred to as "three-dimensional learning". Instead of assessing factual recall, assessments should probe students' abilities to use scientific practices (e.g., analyzing and interpreting data) in the context of disciplinary core ideas (e.g., using the structure of a compound to predict how the substance behaves) and crosscutting concepts (e.g., conservation of energy and matter) to make sense of phenomena, but writing such assessments is difficult. There is a need for assessments that emphasize three-dimensional learning in introductory biology courses to support students in developing an integrated understanding of science. To address this need, the objective of this two-year collaborative project between Michigan State University (MSU) and Florida International University (FIU) will be to develop, test, and evaluate the effectiveness of assessment items that integrate chemistry and biology disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and scientific practices, and focus on making sense of phenomena.

  • Focus: Undergraduate students
  • Funder: National Science Foundation
  • Team: Sonia Underwood (Principal Investigator)
  • Award Number: #1708589
  • Amount: $150,495
  • Contact: Sonia Underwood (