How accurate are our assumptions about our students' background knowledge?
Teachers establish prerequisites that students must meet before they are permitted to enter their courses. It is expected that having these prerequisites will provide students with the knowledge and skills they will need to successfully learn the course content. Also, the material that the students are expected to have previously learned need not be included in a course. We wanted to determine how accurate instructors' understanding of their students background knowledge actually was. To do this, we wrote a set of multiple-choice questions that could be used to test students' knowledge of concepts deemed to be essential for learning respiratory physiology. Instructors then selected 10 of these questions to be used as a prerequisite knowledge test. The instructors also predicted the performance they expected from the students on each of the questions they had selected. The resulting tests were administered in the first week of each of seven courses. The results of this study demonstrate that instructors are poor judges of what beginning students know. Instructors tended to both underestimate and overestimate students' knowledge by large margins on individual questions. Although on the average they tended to underestimate students' factual knowledge, they overestimated the students' abilities to apply this knowledge. Hence, the validity of decisions that instructors make, predicated on the basis of their students having the prerequisite knowledge that they expect, is open to question.
Department of Molecular Biophysics and Physiology, Rush Medical College, Chicago, Illinois 60612, USA. email@example.com
SourceThe American journal of physiology 276:6 Pt 2 1999 Jun pg S93-101
Respiratory Physiological Phenomena
Pub Type(s)Journal Article
Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.