Questions For Biology

The Questions For Biology (Q4B) project is a UBC-based endeavor that brings together faculty, instructors and researchers with a passion for improving the way Biology courses are developed and taught at University. By designing and implementing concept inventories that have been vigorously validated – both by experts in their relevant fields, and by students – we hope to assess common areas of misconception among undergraduates.

Funded since its origin by UBC’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Funds, Q4B has fostered a strong collaborative relationship across numerous departments at UBC; it has benefited from input from people working with the Science Centre for Learning and Teaching, the departments of Botany, Biology, Zoology, Microbiology & Immunology, and the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative. For a comprehensive list of the team members involved, please consult the ‘People’ page.

Being able to understand which common misconceptions are responsible for students answering questions incorrectly is hugely beneficial from a teaching perspective. It has the potential to allow instructors to alter the way certain concepts are taught in the short (lesson) and long (course) term, as well as providing general benchmarks as to how conceptual knowledge of the student demographic improves over the duration of a given course.

Concept Inventories

Concept Inventories are multiple-choice assessment instruments made up of a number of conceptual-based questions designed to understand whether students have mastered the theory behind critical concepts in respective courses. Answering them correctly thus requires an understanding of how and why each concept can be applied to certain real life situations, rather than the regurgitation of facts and figures.

As well as using expert feedback to hone an inventory, each question is validated by students, whose feedback is invaluable in ensuring that each one is worded without jargon and in a manner that is interpreted easily and correctly. In many cases – particularly in the answers themselves – we use student language so as not to ‘give away’ correct answers and to enhance comprehension.

It is important to note that concept inventories are developed to inform instructors about student knowledge; they are therefore powerful diagnostic tools, but are not designed to be used as assessment tools (such as making up parts of exams and/or assignments). The Q4B team only recommends using their concept inventories for diagnostic purposes.

For more detailed information regarding concept inventories, their history and development methods, please read the ‘Q4B Concept Inventories’ page. Listed there is information of all the inventories currently being developed by the Q4B project team.

Our Specific Aims

The Q4B project aims to:

1: Develop validated concept inventories for selected, fundamental concepts in Biology. These may be used to assess areas of misconception and learning gains by instructors in associated courses at UBC and other institutions.

2: Develop and maintain an online repository for all validated concept inventories in Biology. This repository will be maintained to allow access to inventories for verified instructors at UBC and other institutions who wish to use them in their teaching.



a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

Questions For Biology
The University of British Columbia,
Vancouver, BC, Canada

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