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The Diagnostic Question Cluster (DQC) Group’s interest is in undergraduates’ reasoning as they learn biology and geology.  The Group consists of faculty from the Colleges of Natural Science and Education.

 Project Goals- The Diagnostic Question Cluster Project goal is to develop assessments that can inform instruction.   We focus our assessment on undergraduates’ ability to explain and predict geological and biological phenomena.  In particular we assess how undergraduates trace matter, energy, and/or information through biological and geological processes at multiple scales.  This requires them to use foundational principles such as conservation of matter and energy.  We call this coordinated set of practices principled reasoning.

Content Domains


  • Water cycle
  • Rock cycle
  • Carbon cycle



  • Cellular respiration
  • Photosynthesis
  • Genetics and meiosis



Diagnostic question clustersgroups of questions in each of the content domains listed above that reveal undergraduates’ ability to use principled reasoning 

Frameworks that organize standard content around basic principles and practices in ways that make the principles more apparent and explicit for students

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