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Q 2007 by The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology BIOCHEMISTRY AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY EDUCATION

Vol. 35, No. 6, pp. 471–477, 2007

Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Educational Research-Teaching Practice Gap*


THE POWER OF ASSESSMENT

Received for publication, September 12, 2007

Trevor R. Anderson‡
From the Science Education Research Group (SERG), School of Biochemistry, Genetics, Microbiology and Plant
Pathology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Student assessment, in all its forms, is central to the educational process. In this paper in the series,
‘‘Bridging the Gap’’, I describe how assessment can be used as a powerful instrument for influencing
how and what students learn and how and what instructors teach in a manner that is conducive to edu-
cationally sound curriculum change and improvement. In this way assessment is seen as a useful strat-
egy for colleagues interested in bridging the gap between educational research and its application in
teaching practice.
Keywords: Summative, formative assessment, teaching, learning, curriculum, biochemistry.

I have chosen to launch this column with a series of that they meet required standards and are valid meas-
articles on assessment because assessment is of central ures of students’ achievement of course objectives. In all
importance in education and is arguably the most power- these articles, I shall make use of selected examples
ful tool that educators have at their disposal to influence from biochemistry and molecular biology to illustrate the
and improve the teaching process [1]. Since the terms main theories and principles presented. In this way, I
‘‘assessment’’ and ‘‘evaluation’’ are used rather loosely at hope to facilitate the implementation of these ideas by
times and, in some cases, differently in different coun- biochemistry and molecular biology educators and go
tries, it is appropriate to commence by defining them. some way towards promoting the ‘‘bridging of the gap’’-
For the purpose of this paper, I will use the definitions of goals of this column.
Scriven [2] and Taras [3] who refer to assessment as, Fig. 1 outlines the crucial relationship that exists
‘‘judgements of students’ work,’’ and evaluation as, between the four key components of the educational
‘‘judgements regarding courses or course delivery, or the process, namely course objectives, teaching, learning,
process of making such judgements.’’ and assessment. This paper will focus mainly on the
This article, by way of introduction to assessment, will details pertaining to the assessment component while at
focus on the power of assessment, not only as a tool for the same time emphasizing the important relationship
grading students, but also as an effective instrument that between all the four components. Thus, the figure is not
can be used by educators to inform, control, and only recommended as a guiding framework for this paper
enhance the teaching and learning process for the bene- but is also intended to serve as a useful diagram for
fit of all stakeholders. In the next article, I will focus on facilitating discussions among faculty and students about
the meaning and assessment of conceptual understand- the relationship between the components and how they
ing and the often neglected cognitive skills that are so affect or inform each other. The diagram occupies a per-
essential for the development of expert biochemists and manent place on our notice board and is quite often
molecular biologists. This will then be followed by an arti- used to stimulate educational debate.
cle on assessing visual literacy and visualization skills, a
topic of extreme importance to modern biochemists, SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENT: MEASURING (GRADING)
whose success relies very heavily on visual tools to rep- ACHIEVEMENT OF COURSE OBJECTIVES
resent the microscopic and molecular world they investi- Summative assessment has been described by Taras
gate [4]. Finally, the last article on assessment will ex- [3] as ‘‘a judgement which encapsulates all the evidence
pose readers to a variety of useful tools that can be eas- up to a given point.’’ When that point is at the end of the
ily used to evaluate the quality of assessment tasks so course, summative assessment becomes a powerful
tool for measuring or grading whether a student has
* The National Research Foundation (NRF) is acknowledged achieved all the course objectives (see Fig. 1). In
for the financial support (GUN Number 2053218) of this work.
‡ To whom correspondence should be addressed. Tel.: þ27- designing a course, it is important to first establish the
33-260-5464; Fax: þ27-33-260-6127. E-mail: Anderson@ukzn. course objectives, in terms of the knowledge and skills
ac.za. you would like your students to acquire. As illustrated in
This paper is available on line at http://www.bambed.org 471 DOI 10.1002/bambed.20135
472 BAMBED, Vol. 35, No. 6, pp. 471–477, 2007
students frequent measures of student performance
(grades) and their progressive achievement of course
objectives. This allows students the opportunity to monitor
their progress and, if necessary, to try and improve their
grades before the course ends. Continuous assessment
also affords instructors the opportunity to phase in new
types of questions so that students can get repetitive
practice at answering such questions and the opportu-
nity to develop new problem-solving strategies before they
encounter them in examinations. This helps to progressively
build student confidence and competence during the
course and better prepares them for the final examination.
FIG. 1. Relationship between objectives, teaching, learn- Continuous assessment need not be followed by any
ing, and assessment. The single-headed solid arrows indicate, action taken by faculty to improve student learning
‘‘. . . should determine . . .;’’ the double-headed solid arrows indi- based on feedback from student answers. If it does, then
cate ‘‘. . .should determine . . .’’ or ‘‘. . . enables/measures ac- this constitutes a situation in which continuous assess-
hievement of. . .’’ in the downward or upward directions, respec- ment has been used in combination with formative
tively; and, the double-headed, broken arrows indicate,
‘‘. . . should be in line with . . ..’’ assessment (see also under formative assessment section).
There is a current worldwide move to use a continu-
Fig. 1, this should directly inform what you teach and, ous assessment process, with no final examination.
therefore, what you assess. It is important to always Instead, students progressively accumulate grade points
check that what you teach will enable students to during the course by doing regular quizzes, tests, and
achieve the course objectives, and what you assess is assignments, which are designed to keep them studying
indeed measuring students’ achievement of the specified consistently and well informed as to the progress of their
objectives. In my experience, educators often think they learning. A portfolio of all assessment tasks done by
are doing this but find otherwise when they take a closer each student during the course is supplied to the exam-
look at their course notes and compare these to the iner, who is then in a much better position, than in the
stated course objectives and their test and examination case of a single examination, to obtain a more accurate
questions set during the course. For example, one objec- and fairer measure of a student’s performance and
tive of a course in metabolism might be to develop stu- knowledge. Indeed, the science education literature con-
dents’ ability to apply their knowledge of the principles of tains extensive criticism of summative-type final exami-
metabolism to other pathways that they have not nations that count towards a high percentage of the final
encountered before. However, on examination of the grade (e.g., [7]). This is because a student’s performance
coursework and the summative assessment, it becomes on the day of the final examination might be affected
clear that the students had not been given any tasks adversely by factors such as stress-induced mental
involving the interpretation of ‘‘unseen’’ pathways. On fur- blocks, off days, or feeling unwell. In addition, the sudden-
ther investigation, it emerges that the instructor had death nature of examinations gives students no chance
assumed that knowledge of the principles implies auto- to recover and improve and no time for the instructor
matic ability to transfer and apply such knowledge to to help them after they have left the course. And, as
other situations, something that science education stated above, students are discouraged from working con-
research has shown to not necessarily be true. Indeed, sistently during the course and encouraged to cram at the
researchers such as Solomon and Perkins [5] as well as last moment and to spot and develop strategies to pass
Meyer [6] have shown that transfer skills need to be ex- that are not in the interests of promoting sound learning.
plicitly taught through extensive problem-solving exer- All types of summative assessment have important
cises and teaching strategies such as the cueing of stu- social implications, particularly in the case of new gradu-
dents to transfer their knowledge from one context to ates who do not have the benefit of any relevant work
another. How to assess and promote the development of experience and related letters of recommendation to
transfer skills in students will be one of the focuses of present to potential employers. In this case, without
the next article in this ‘‘Bridging the Gap’’ series. some summative measure of an individual’s capability or
The grades obtained by students through summative competence, we would have no way of determining their
assessment can also be used to evaluate the effec- potential for a particular job or career. Thus, in such
tiveness of the instructor and of the course in achiev- cases, as discussed by Howson [8], society tends to be
ing the desired objectives and, therefore, whether there more interested in the grades students obtain through
will be any need for course and/or instructor improve- summative assessment than the learning and assess-
ment in the future. This assumes of course that the ment process by which the grades were achieved.
assessment used is fair and valid as, for example, the
use of very easy questions can create a perception that FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: MONITORING AND IMPROVING
the instructor is far more effective than he or she actually is. STUDENT LEARNING
When summative assessment is performed on a regular Consideration of the process of teaching and learning
basis throughout the course, it is often called continuous brings us to formative assessment. Black and coworkers
assessment. Continuous assessment gives instructors and have published extensively on the nature and value of
473
formative assessment (e.g., [9–11]). They describe forma- the various options presented and to justify their particu-
tive assessment as all the activities undertaken by lar choices with sound arguments. This not only helps
instructors during the course that yield feedback infor- students develop the interactive and critical thinking skills
mation on teaching and learning and, most importantly, that are so important for their development as scientists,
in which such information is explicitly used to adapt but also allows them to address any conceptual or rea-
the teaching to improve and promote student learn- soning difficulties before they become firmly ingrained in
ing before the course ends [9, 10] (Fig. 1). Thus, forma- a student’s cognitive structure and, therefore, resistant to
tive assessment is not the same as continuous assess- correction [15]. In addition, Burnstein and Lederman [16]
ment (see above), which simply involves frequent sum- showed that the use of a PRS increased student attend-
mative assessment plus feedback on student grades, ance, kept them more alert during class, and improved
without any attempt to use feedback information to their overall performance and motivation for learning.
render significant improvements in student learning dur- The science education literature contains numerous
ing the course. A combination of formative and continu- reports (e.g., [17]) in which educators formalize this moni-
ous assessment is seen by various educational research- toring/feedback/action process by doing research with
ers as providing a more complete teaching and learning student response data obtained from formative assess-
experience for students. ment [11]. The research outcomes can then, for instance,
There is extensive evidence (e.g., [9]) that formative be used to inform improvement of teaching and assess-
assessment can raise standards of learning and develop ment practice, the remediation of student conceptual dif-
faculty’s professional practice in a way that they value. A ficulties, and curriculum change. This constitutes one
key factor is the quality of the feedback information form of a much larger area of research that is commonly
yielded by the assessment tasks. Good feedback should called, action research [18] and is a much more rigorous
indicate the existence of any ‘‘gap’’ between the actual way of monitoring the quality of one’s teaching practice.
level of a student’s work being assessed and the This approach is recommended to biochemistry educa-
required standard [12]. In this way, students can easily tors as a simple, effective tool for investigating an educa-
identify whether they need to improve in certain areas, tional problem, and taking action to resolve it. Partici-
while instructors can decide whether they need to adjust pants choose a problem to focus on (e.g., Why are some
their teaching approach, spend longer on a particular as- students producing such poor concept maps in my me-
pect, or give certain students extra tutorials. In addition, tabolism class?), gather data, reflect on and share their
formative assessment affords faculty the opportunity to findings, plan for action, carry it out, check their results,
monitor and, if necessary, improve the quality and the and plan for further action until the problem has been
standard of the assessment tasks they are giving to stu- resolved. This cycle of steps—act, observe, reflect, plan—
dents during the course. Through analysis of student can be used more broadly to continually develop and
answers, any questions that prove either too difficult, too improve the quality of course curricula and teaching pro-
easy, unfair, unclear, or misleading can be restructured or grams, something that has now become a basic require-
replaced with better questions. Article 5 of this series on ment at most universities. The publication of action
Bridging the Gap will focus more specifically on methods research in a journal widely read by research scientists
such as item analysis that can be used to screen the would be of value to the whole biochemistry and molecu-
quality of questions. Thus, in this way, formative assess- lar biology teaching community. In a future article of this
ment can afford biochemistry students and instructors column, I shall discuss some of the many other applica-
the opportunity to identify problems that students may tions of action research to the educational process and
be experiencing at an early stage, before the examina- introduce readers to quantitative and qualitative educa-
tions arrive and it becomes too late to correct them. tional research methods that can be used to rigorously
A fairly recent innovation, which considerably enhan- evaluate the quality of their teaching and student learning.
ces the goals of formative assessment, has been the Formative assessment can, through regular monitoring
development of various personal response systems of student progress and the giving of feedback, also act
(PRSs)1, more commonly called ‘‘clickers’’ (e.g., [13, 14]. as a powerful and effective instrument for promoting
Such systems, which are being increasingly used world- learning (studying) during the course (Fig. 1). This is
wide by biochemistry instructors, considerably enhance because the more often you assess students, the more
the active participation of students in learning activities they will have to think and learn about their subject and
by requiring them to respond to multiple-choice ques- the more often they will be motivated to get down and
tions (MCQs) in real time during class. Their responses learn in anticipation of the next assessment session.
are then instantly recorded and processed on the Thus, formative assessment encourages students to
instructor’s computer, allowing for immediate student work consistently throughout the course, rather than
feedback as to what percentage of students selected cramming at the last moment, which is so typical of the
each option. This affords the students and the instructor period before examinations.
the opportunity to actively debate and critically evaluate
ASSESSMENT-DRIVEN STUDENT LEARNING:
LEARNING TO THE TEST
1
The abbreviations used are: PRS, personal response sys-
tem; MCQ, multiple-choice question; SFES, science faculty with Assessment is an extremely powerful instrument for
education specialties; PCK, pedagogical content knowledge; dictating to students what and how they should learn for
AERA, American Educational Research Association. tests (see Fig. 1). This helps them develop more effective
474 BAMBED, Vol. 35, No. 6, pp. 471–477, 2007
learning approaches. Most students will not only use lec- c. The net production/utilization of ATP by glycolysis
ture notes supplied by the instructors to inform what and the pathway efficiency;
they learn but will particularly base what they learn on d. The synthesis of triacylglycerol;
what knowledge and skills past tests and tutorials have e. If iodoacetate was able to inhibit lactate dehydro-
focused on. Furthermore, how such knowledge and skills genase instead of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate de-
are assessed (i.e., the type of questions used) will also hydrogenase, would the muscle be able to gener-
inform students how to learn (Fig. 1). For instance, if ate ATP by glycolysis at a high enough rate for
essays are commonly used, students will practice writing strenuous physical activity? Explain.
essays, while if MCQs dominate tests then students will
To minimize the need for students to memorize infor-
practice doing these types of questions. Thus, this
mation, I would also allow students access to their text-
approach used by students, commonly called ‘‘spotting’’
book when answering this question, or supply them with
or learning to the test, offers instructors a powerful tool
a diagram of the glycolytic pathway details, that is, all
for directing student learning as they see fit. Whereas it
the information that they would have had to supply if
is normally very difficult to pressure students into chang-
answering Question 1 above. Question 2 promotes what
ing their learning styles, manipulation of the nature of the
Entwistle and Ramsden [19] call a deep approach,
assessment task to dictate a particular learning
rather than a surface approach to learning science, since
approach, offers faculty an easier means of motivating
such types of assessment require more mindful under-
students to change their learning styles so that they can
standing of concepts and the ability to integrate and
satisfactorily master the question.
apply knowledge to novel situations. Good conceptual
As long ago as 1983, Entwistle and Ramsden [19]
questions also allow for a range of scientifically correct
described two main learning approaches that students
answers, rather than a single answer, so that the stu-
tend to use, depending on the type of questions given to
dents are encouraged to be more creative and give their
them (i.e., how we assess and what students learn will
own answers, rather than the answer they think the lec-
both influence how they learn; Fig. 1). If the assessment
turer might expect. This helps students feel confident
simply requires the mindless regurgitation of memorized
that their thoughts and ideas are welcomed and will be
facts, students will probably use what Entwistle and
judged fairly.
Ramsden [19] call a surface approach to learning sci-
MCQs, such as those presented by Szeberényi [21],
ence. In a surface approach, they suggest that the stu-
can also foster a deep approach by students to learning.
dent’s intention is to master the examination system
However, such questions also allow students to adopt a
rather than learn as much as possible; to complete the
surface approach to problem solving and to obtain the
task requirements; memorize the information needed for
correct answer without understanding why it is correct.
assessments; treat the task as something not interesting
For example, when the student selects the correct option
or challenging; focus on separate facts without integra-
in an MCQ, how does the instructor know whether the
tion of knowledge; and, not think about why (purpose)
student actually understood the whole problem and the
and how (strategy) the topic should be studied. For
relevant science, or whether he or she had simply
example, during my undergraduate years, I was given
guessed the answer or rote learnt enough facts to be
the following type of question that encouraged me to
able to select the correct answer without understanding
adopt a surface approach to learning about metabolism.
the science? One way to minimize such problems is to
Question 1 always ask students to give an explanation for the
choice they made. This encourages the student to think
‘‘Give details of the glycolytic pathway, with respect to more deeply about the question, while the instructor can
the chemical structures of all intermediates and the then easily establish whether a correct choice is backed
names of relevant enzymes, coenzymes, and cofactors.’’ up by a sound explanation and, therefore, deep concep-
Such a question clearly encourages the memorization of tual understanding of the problem. Question 3 below, is
facts and does not require the students to demonstrate an example of such a question that, like question 2, also
their understanding of the functioning of a metabolic probes an aspect of student understanding of the func-
pathway. In contrast, I have used the following type of tioning of metabolism.
question in my metabolism course [20], which requires
extensive understanding of the functioning of a pathway, Question 3
including transfer and application of knowledge of ther-
Consider the following part of the glycolytic pathway
modynamics and kinetics, to solve the problem.
functioning in a cell.
Question 2
The discovery that glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehy-
drogenase is irreversibly inhibited by iodoacetate was im-
portant in the history of research on glycolysis. Explain
the effect of this inhibitor in muscle on:
a. The overall flux through glycolysis;
b. The relative concentrations of intermediates of the If 6-phosphofructokinase is totally and irreversibly inhib-
glycolytic pathway; ited by a toxic substance:
475
i. The reactions AFTER the inhibited 6-phosphofruc- approaches successfully used by numerous medical
tokinase reaction will: schools worldwide when they introduced problem-based
Speed up/continue at the same rate/slow down/ and theme-based learning into their curricula. To ensure
stop (Circle the correct answer) greater success in such ventures, various scientists and
Because . . . educational researchers (e.g., [22]) have recommended
ii. The reactions BEFORE the inhibited 6-phospho- that departments consider hiring Science Faculty with
fructokinase reaction will: Education Specialties (SFES), into science departments
Speed up/continue at the same rate/slow down/ who can assist in all areas of the educational process
stop (Circle the correct answer) and facilitate ongoing curriculum development, backed
Because . . . up by sound discipline-based educational research. This
iii. The overall flux through glycolysis will: issue was extensively discussed in paper 1 of this col-
Stay the same/increase/decrease/be zero (Circle umn [23] and has been strongly supported by many fac-
the correct answer) ulty as an indispensable strategy for facilitating the bridg-
Because . . . ing of the research-teaching practice gap.
Although assessment-driven curriculum change, or in
Thus, in summary, in a deep learning approach, the stu- its simplest form ‘‘teaching to the test,’’ is considered
dent’s intention is to understand, question, critique, and by many science educators as undesirable, there is no
debate the course content; relate new ideas to previous doubt that the questions often given at the end of text-
knowledge; relate concepts to everyday experience; relate book chapters, or offered as textbook supplements, can
evidence to conclusions; examine the logic of the argu- and do, have a profound influence on what faculty teach.
ment; and apply knowledge to solving problems. Since Thus, in an informal way, assessment-driven change is
many students have a background of rote learning from happening all the time, so why not formalize it as a
their earlier education, the sudden expectation that stu- ‘‘bridging-the-gap’’ activity?
dents should think and reason out cognitively demanding
problems can be a stressful experience for them [20]. PEDAGOGICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE (PCK): WHAT WE TEACH
Therefore, care should be taken to gradually introduce stu- AND ASSESS DETERMINES HOW WE TEACH AND ASSESS
dents to assessment that requires a deep approach to The relationship between the ‘‘what’s’’ and the ‘‘how’s’’
learning and to ensure that they are given plenty of prac- of teaching, learning, and assessment (Fig. 1) has been the
tice at answering such questions. It is also important to target of extensive science education research since Lee
not continually reuse the same ‘‘deep’’ questions from one Shulman, of Stanford University, first coined the term ped-
year to the next as, in my experience, many students will agogical content knowledge (PCK) in his 1985 Presiden-
seize any opportunity to memorize answers (rather than tial address at the American Educational Research Associ-
make the effort to do some deep thinking) and thereby ation (AERA). In his seminal paper [24], he suggests that
revert back to a surface approach to learning. faculty not only need science content knowledge and ped-
agogical knowledge to be competent instructors but also a
ASSESSMENT-DRIVEN CURRICULUM CHANGE: third type of knowledge, which he termed PCK. To distin-
TEACHING TO THE TEST guish between the three types of knowledge, he describes
As illustrated in Fig. 1 (see broken, double-headed content knowledge as knowledge of scientific and mathe-
arrows), what and how we assess should always be in matical principles, laws, theories, and concepts; thinking,
line with what and how we teach, and vice versa, since reasoning, critical, analytical, synthetic, and process (i.e.,
both respectively inform students what and how to learn cognitive) skills; practical and technical skills; and attitudes
in the course. This relationship between the ‘‘what’s,’’ and values. Pedagogical knowledge is described as
and between the ‘‘how’s,’’ of teaching and assessment knowledge of teaching and assessment techniques; curric-
can be used to great advantage by faculty working to- ulum material development; student learning and theories
gether with educational consultants to upgrade teaching of learning; and management of learning environments.
in a department. With the cooperation of staff, they can Finally, he defines PCK as knowledge of the specific teach-
use assessment as a powerful instrument for influencing ing and assessment approaches that are most appropriate
faculty to change how and what they teach in a manner for each topic, principle, concept, or skill. In other words,
that is far less threatening than direct criticism of their how you teach and assess should depend on what you are
teaching. For example, if they would like to influence fac- teaching and assessing (Fig. 1), as different content areas,
ulty to use a more problem-based teaching approach, topics, or skills need a different pedagogical approach.
they could encourage them to use, or even supply them More simply, it is the additional knowledge that new lec-
with, assessment tasks that require such an approach turers and even tutors realize they need when teaching
(e.g., see Harold B. White’s column on problem-based subject matter for the first time—how to communicate it in
learning, Biochem. Mol. Biol. Educ.), and this will more the most appropriate manner for optimal learning.
than likely lead to a change in their teaching style to According to Shulman and colleagues, PCK includes
accommodate such a change in approach. Such curricu- knowledge of the most useful and appropriate ways of
lum teamwork, and the resultant changes that incur, can representing (e.g., verbal descriptions, diagrams, simula-
ultimately lead to whole-department curriculum changes, tions, animations, equations, and graphs), teaching, and
as all the other aspects of the educational process fall assessing each individual topic or concept and skill, so
into line with the changes. In fact, this was one of the as to make it optimally comprehensible and understand-
476 BAMBED, Vol. 35, No. 6, pp. 471–477, 2007
able to students. It also includes knowledge of what each biochemistry topic, concept, or skill that they teach
makes specific topics, concepts, and skills easy or diffi- and that assessment can be used as a powerful tool for
cult for students to learn. This, in turn, includes knowl- promoting this development.
edge of students’ prior knowledge or preconceptions
CONCLUSION
that they bring with them from different educational
backgrounds; students’ alternative conceptions and In this article, I have shown that assessment can be
incorrect ways of reasoning; and remediation strategies used by biochemistry and molecular biology educators
or instructional conditions that would most likely correct and educational developers as a powerful instrument for
all these difficulties. ‘‘bridging the gap’’ [23] between research knowledge on
Clearly, all biochemistry faculty possess some PCK, curricula, teaching, and learning and its application in the
particularly concerning the topics they are most experi- educational process. More specifically, assessment can
enced in teaching, and that their PCK will continually de- be used in multiple ways as a powerful tool for affecting
velop throughout their teaching careers. The big question student learning and facilitating both faculty development
is whether their PCK of a particular topic requires and curriculum change. Since the major aim of this arti-
improvement and, if so, how can they go about improv- cle, and all the articles in this column, is to facilitate the
ing their PCK? Since few, if any, biochemistry textbooks application of ideas from the science education research
or accompanying instructor’s manuals explicitly describe literature to teaching practice, the following is a summary
the PCK that faculty could implement when teaching of the multiple ways in which I recommend biochemistry
each topic, instructors need to find alternative ways of and molecular biology educators could harness the
developing their PCK. One way is to gather a group of power of assessment.
colleagues together, who are all experienced in teaching • Use summative assessment to measure (grade) stu-
the topic of interest, and brainstorm what the optimal dent achievement of course objectives;
way of teaching that topic is in terms of the best teach- • Use summative assessment to evaluate instructor
ing and assessment approaches, including the most use- and course effectiveness and to inform faculty and
ful representations and strategies for preventing or reme- curriculum development;
diating student difficulties. For example, regarding the • Use formative assessment to monitor student pro-
topic of metabolism, as discussed above, I would recom- gress during the course and give feedback that is
mend teaching and assessment approaches that mini- explicitly used to improve and promote teaching and
mize the need for rote learning chemical structures and student learning;
rather emphasize understanding of the functioning of • Use PRSs to give immediate feedback that pro-
pathways. Other components of my PCK regarding me- motes active learning, critical debate, and the reme-
tabolism would, for example, include the use of anima- diation of any difficulties among students;
tions to illustrate chemical and cellular processes; the • Use action research to monitor and inform teaching
use of thermodynamics and kinetics principles and cal- practice, student learning, and curriculum change;
culations to explain metabolic regulation, reaction direc- • Use continuous assessment, with no final examina-
tion, rate, etc; the use of concept maps [25] to develop tion, to promote consistent studying and to allow
students’ integrated knowledge of metabolic concepts; students to recover from setbacks and improve their
the use of examples of enzyme inhibitors or gene muta- accumulative grades during the course;
tions to understand how pathways respond to stress; • Use what you assess to influence what students
and the use of unseen pathways and biotechnology learn (learning to the test);
processes to develop students’ ability to transfer and • Use how you assess to determine whether students
apply their knowledge of metabolic principles to novel will use a surface or deep approach to learning;
situations. Considering my past research on student diffi- • Use what and how you assess to influence what and
culties with metabolism (see for example [20] and [26]), I how faculty teach (teaching to the test);
would also present to colleagues how I believe such diffi- • Use assessment to promote the development of
culties could be prevented or remediated during teaching. instructors’ PCK.
In summary, Shulman and Sherin [27] stated that,
‘‘. . . one of the most significant factors influencing the In conclusion, it is perhaps fitting to quote the words of
effectiveness of teaching is the teacher’s own subject Graue [30] who states, ‘‘Choosing the appropriate assess-
matter knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge.’’ ment strategy is a validity concern; the tool must be rele-
In presenting some examples of PCK, Bucat [28] reinfor- vant to the task at hand . . . .’’ In discussing the important
ces this opinion by emphasizing the importance and ur- relationships between teaching, learning, and assess-
gency of doing some education research that probes ment, this article has introduced many important aspects
and documents the topic-specific PCK of respected of what amounts to the issue of validity. This topic will be
chemistry faculty. Since, as already discussed, what and the focus of more detailed coverage in the next two
how instructors assess needs to be in line with what and articles of this column, where we will illustrate how differ-
how they teach, assessment is not only an integral part ent forms of assessment need to be used, depending on
of PCK but can be used as a powerful instrument to what knowledge and skills are being assessed.
promote the development of PCK in faculty [29]. Thus, Acknowledgment— John Rogan (Univ. KwaZulu-Natal, Pieter-
it is clearly of utmost importance that biochemistry maritzburg), Adele Wolfson (Wellesley, Massachusetts), Judith
educators also develop and document their own PCK for G. Voet (Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania), Duane W. Sears
477
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