Criterion Referencing Project

The Examinations Institute is working to build a content map that allows for criterion referencing of all ACS exams. This map is built along “big ideas” in chemistry that arise throughout the undergraduate curriculum. We began the process utilizing the ideas that were discussed by the “Exploring the Molecular Vision” conference of the Society Committee on Education (SOCED) of the ACS and were put forth in the report from this conference.

From the initial listing of “big ideas” we began holding workshop sessions (which we continue to do) to obtain feedback from various instructors about what they see as the way this organization in the course they teach. The result is a four-level map that is being constructed that represents the information contained in undergraduate chemistry.

  • Level 1: Anchoring Concepts
    • These are the Big Ideas – expanded somewhat from those noted in the EMV report.
  • Level 2: Enduring Understanding
    • (Terminology borrowed from Evidence-Centered Design.) These are statements that one hopes an educated person will retain indefinitely.
  • Level 3: Sub-disciplinary articulation
    • This level acknowledges that not all courses teach all enduring understandings within the undergraduate curriculum, and some sub-disciplines may emphasize a particular understanding enough to warrant additional statements there.
  • Level 4: Content details
    • This level is typically where individual exam items are written.

This map is being continually refined, and will ultimately serve as the content template to which items from ACS Exams are mapped. Thus, a department that utilizes ACS Exams throughout the curriculum will be able to measure student knowledge along the vectors of the big ideas in a longitudinal sense.

This project is linked to our development of electronic delivery for ACS Exams. Ultimately, Departments that use our exams electronically throughout the undergraduate curriculum will be able to have reporting tools that carry out this analysis automatically based on queries made by the instructors in our reporting system.