!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: ConcepTests

Monday, February 16, 2009


As a follow-on both to yesterday's post concerning Will Thalheimer's work on use of questions in classroom training, and to an earlier post dealing with Harvard prof Eric Mazur's techniques for helping his students truly learn the physics concepts covered in his classes, I'd like to call attention to "ConcepTests," introduced by Mazur some years ago and now used at a number of institutions, generally in science and math courses.1

Mazur explains that his research group
... developed a method, Peer Instruction, which involves students in their own learning during lecture and focuses their attention on underlying concepts. Lectures are interspersed with conceptual questions, called ConcepTests, designed to expose common difficulties in understanding the material. The students are given one to two minutes to think about the question and formulate their own answers; they then spend two to three minutes discussing their answers in groups of three to four, attempting to reach consensus on the correct answer. This process forces the students to think through the arguments being developed, and enables them (as well as the instructor) to assess their understanding of the concepts even before they leave the classroom.
You can listen to Mazur and some of his students discuss this teaching approach in the video below.

In a business setting, even if the subject of classroom training is not so technical as organic chemistry or calculus, using ConcepTests can be a helpful tool for ensuring participants truly grasp central concepts and retain what they learn in class. Training participants have to process information for themselves — articulate the concepts in their own words, and connect the information they're learning to other ideas and to realistic work situations.

1 Schools using ConcepTests include Brandeis University, Carleton College, Cornell University, Portland State University and the University of Wisconsin.

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