A well-grounded and comprehensive consideration of assessment in chemistry

Lisa K Kendhammer and Kristen L Murphy
2016 | 216pp | £97 (HB)
ISBN 9780841230354

Cover - Innovative uses of assessments for teaching and research

This book provides an excellent platform for those looking to reconsider how they assess chemistry. Introductory chapters include some really useful information for those evaluating their assessments. For example, Diane Bunce and Regis Komperda survey a variety of different research approaches, which acts as an excellent primer for those interested in exploring this area. The editors’ own chapter on the statistical analysis of assessment scores is also useful.

The authors consider a series of case studies in practice, ranging from informal classroom assessment to prompt reflection, as well as formal assessment to measure learning. A chapter on prompting metacognition by using organic chemistry practice exams demonstrates how an exam is constructed and how the results can be analysed to determine the difficulty and discriminatory nature of questions. Another chapter deals with the incorporation of feedback and how students respond to it – this provides some thought on immediate versus delayed feedback.

A final section of the book considers some examples of practices outside the norm. These include the use of a ‘chemistry salon’ – a Facebook-style interface for facilitating student discussion. Details are also provided on the development of an online laboratory exam.

The chapters mentioned are typical of the book, which provides a well-grounded and comprehensive consideration of assessment in chemistry. My initial concerns that the book has too broad an audience turned out to be its strength. Engaging all faculty in considering suitable approaches to assessment and how we might research the value and validity of the particular assessments we use means we are prompted into a much fuller consideration of the types of assessment implemented and what job we expect them to do.

As such, the book illustrates a good approach to crossing the research–practice divide and will be genuinely of use to the broad audience it targets. The only issue is the cost, which will put it out of the reach of many, save for those with institutional access.

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