News from the Exams Institute, Spring 2014

Given the nature of weather in the Midwest, it’s hard to motivate to write for the “Spring Newsletter”, but it’s important to highlight a number of the traditional activities that are ongoing within the Exams Institute. The next several months promise to be quite busy for test development, in particular.

First, and foremost, there are a number of new tests under development as is often true. Some of these are new versions of long standing tests and others are new tests for the Institute. In terms of revisions in process, each of our General Chemistry exams is being revised at this time with Laura Eisen as the Chair. The “flagship” full-year General Chemistry exam will be doing item editing for the trial exams at the ACS Meeting in Dallas. While the timing will be a little tight, the trial tests will be ready for use this spring, so if you are interested in participating in a trial test, here’s what’s entailed.

  • Contact us at chmexams@iastate.edu
  • We’ll check on how many exams you’ll need, and whether or not you want all tests of one form or if you prefer to use both forms.
  • We’ll check whether you need bubble sheets – generally folks use the sheets they commonly use on their home campus rather than ours, so they can be certain grading will be automated on their own campus. Nonetheless, we’re more than happy to send our “custom” bubble sheets if you need them.
  • Our office will send you photocopied versions of the exams you need (and bubble sheets if requested) along with general instructions. It’s important to remember that trial tests carry the same security as any ACS exam.
  • You use the exams with students in your course and do whatever grading you need to do with them.
  • When you are finished, you return the exams and the bubble sheets you used to us, and we process the data along with all the other trial testers.

We are also still trial testing the Second Term General Chemistry exam, so if you prefer to test only the second half of your full-year course, we can use your help as well. The First Term General Chemistry exam is just getting underway, under the leadership of Sharmistha Basu-Dutt of the University of West Georgia. It has it’s first meeting at the Dallas ACS meeting. Finally, the Conceptual General Chemistry exam is also underway. This committee, co-chaired by Jamie Schneider of the University of Wisconsin – River Falls and Tom Greenbowe of Iowa State University, is building a flexible use exam, much like the last conceptual exam. This means that they will be working to have trial tests of the second semester of this conceptual exam available for this coming spring as well. So, if you are teaching the second semester of general chemistry, we have three different versions of ACS Exams in trial testing formats for you to potentially use:

  • ACS Full-year general chemistry exam: covers both semesters
  • ACS Second-term general chemistry exam: covers only material from the second term with a traditional mixture of test items
  • ACS Conceptual general chemistry exam (with content of the second semester) where the items more explicitly test conceptual understanding.

With all this going on, we would be delighted to hear from you to volunteer as a trial test site.

Beyond general chemistry, we have two new exam committees getting started for High School chemistry as well, both meeting for the first time at the ACS meeting in Dallas. The traditional ACS High School Chemistry exam committee is the first group, chaired by Lauri McDonald of Highland Park High School in Dallas. High school teachers who may be interested in serving on this committee should contact us, as there may still be room for volunteers on the test development committee when this newsletter is published. The second committee is a new exam; the High School Conceptual Chemistry Exam. Laura Slocum from Heathwood Hall Episcopal School is serving as chair of this committee. There is a heritage of high school exams that focus on conceptual understanding associated with the Chemistry in the Community textbook that has been published for many years by the ACS. Another interesting exam to mention is another new exam, this time being built for the sophomore level Inorganic Chemistry. Barbara Reisner of James Madison University is serving as chair of this committee (and she is also chairing the traditional senior-level Inorganic exam committee as well.) We are keenly interested in finding trial testers for this new sophomore level exam because it’s the first time we’ve tried to build a nationally normed test for this course. Finally, we’ll also note that we are working with folks from the Division of Polymer Chemistry to build a new Polymer Chemistry exam. We would be especially happy to hear from folks interested in working with us on this exam, both in terms of contributing to test development and in terms of helping with trial testing of the exam.

We do have a number of other projects going on as well, but we’ll leave a discussion of those to the next newsletter. As always, we try to respond to the needs of the chemistry education community whenever possible. If you have ideas for new tests or products that you think the Institute should consider working on, drop me a note. My email is  taholme@iastate.edu and I would love to hear from you. We aren’t always able to develop new assessment tools, but we can always look into the possibility.

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