Understanding undergraduate students' conceptions in science: Using lexical analysis software to analyze students' constructed responses in biology

TitleUnderstanding undergraduate students' conceptions in science: Using lexical analysis software to analyze students' constructed responses in biology
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Conference2008
AuthorsMoscarella, RA, Urban-Lurain M, Merritt B, Long T, Richmond G, Merrill J, Parker J, Patterson R, Wilson C
Conference NameNARST 2008 Annual International Conference
Date PublishedMarch 30 - April
PublisherNational Association for Research in Science Teaching
Conference LocationBaltimore, MD
KeywordsAACR, Biology, Biology education, DQC, Lexical analysis
AbstractThe large enrollment of many undergraduate introductory science courses often restricts assessment to multiple choice exams. However, constructed response assessments may better reveal student conceptual barriers. We explored the feasibility of using lexical analysis software to help identify biological concepts in students’ open-ended responses. We created two items in an on-line course management system where we asked students to trace carbon during cell respiration. Data were collected during the fall semesters of 2004 and 2006. We created a custom library of biological terms using SPSS Text Analysis for Surveys which we used to analyze students’ open-ended responses. With the custom library, we were able to correctly classify 90% of student responses. Comparing pre- to post-tests, a larger proportion of students provided more accurate responses on the post-test, but also the proportion of students that provided vague responses slightly increased. Additionally, students seem to understand where the carbon is, but they are either confused about the processes by which it got there or they understand the processes, but do not know the compounds. We believe that lexical analysis software can be used to help instructors assess students’ conceptual barriers to improve science instruction.
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