1 An Analysis of University Science Instructors Examination Questions According to the Cognitive Levels Salih ÇEPN * Abstract The purpose of this study was to analyze exam questions prepared by university lecturers worked at different science departments according to the cognitive levels of Bloom taxonomy. In the study, 787 exam questions from the physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics departments were collected and analyzed by using the document analysis method. In A scale prepared by the researcher based on the Bloom s Taxonomy was used. Results showed that 81% of the questions were at the first three levels according to the Bloom taxonomy and 19% of the questions were at the last three levels in the taxonomy. This means that exam questions used to assess university students achievement levels are at low cognitive levels. For future studies, the learning levels of university students should be investigated in depth and in this process, the cognitive domain of the Bloom taxonomy should be taken into consideration. Key Words Cognitive Development, Bloom Taxonomy, Science Instructors, Undergraduate Exam Questions. *Correspondence: Assos. Prof., Karadeniz Technical University, Fatih Education Faculty, Department of Primary Education, Sö ütlü Trabzon, Turkey Kuram ve Uygulamada E itim Bilimleri / Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice 3 (1) May s / May
2 ÇEPN / An Analysis of University Science Instructors Examination Questions In order to overcome society s problems, everybody should have knowledge, skills, and abilities in solving problems. If we want students to cope with the future problems, schools should improve students cognitive levels that would help them think critically and make powerful decisions about the current issues. In this content, the aim of teaching as is to prepare the next generation with high level thinking skills. The same should also consider as a national goal. In Turkey, universities are accepted as the most important centers of scientific and technological investigations. In addition, to what extent universities are successful in processing the present knowledge and producing new ones have long been the issues for discussion. The most important aim of the university education is to prepare the manpower that comprehends the scientific knowledge accumulation, which is continuously changing, by the use of technology (Korkut, 1999). In this way, they result more development in scientific endeavors. It is stressed in the University Act (2547) that universities in our country have basically two important functions: Preparing the manpower needs as necessary in all branches in the country; therefore, contributing to the increase of the society s production and life standards at the local and national level and implementing scientific research based on the community needs and determined goals. In the process of determining the quality of instruction at an institution, assessing the learning products plays an important role. There are many ways to determine the quality of a university education. Some of these are; the number and qualities of newly developed products, published manuscripts, graduates entrances to the professional works and their contributions to the related disciplines. However, graduated students cognitive thinking levels may provide useful data about how they are able to use the current knowledge and contribute to the generation of new knowledge and technology. In looking at the university teaching from this perspective, the assessment of students cognitive levels play very crucial role in learning and teaching process. In spite of the fact that educators have different views on how learning exactly takes place and how knowledge constructs in the mind, it is well known that learning basically takes place at the areas of cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. Cognitive domain concerns with the goals connected to intellectual activities of teaching and affective domain concerns with students feelings, attitudes, values and emotions. On the other hand, psychomotor domain concerns
3 80 EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES: THEORY&PRACTICE with the development of skills and abilities of the students (Orlich et al., 1990). The original studies on the classification of cognitive area have started in the 1950s. The most important characteristic of this classification is that it is based on the idea of sequence in learning from basic to complex. Bloom determined six levels in learning from knowledge phase to evaluation phase. Especially, in the process of writing learning behaviors, the levels of each behavior should be determined according to the taxonomy. The assessment should be done in parallel to the level of the targeted behaviors. The relationship between assessment and learning outcomes of behaviors was also established by the Bloom s taxonomy. Quality assessment is based on the quality of questions. In addition, questions levels asked at the examinations are playing an important role in assessing students achievement and developing their critical thinking skills. Students who are continuously encountered with the lower level questions are directed towards to basic level thinking. On the other hand, high level questions are helpful for students to think more creatively and multidimensional (Brualdi, 1998). Thus, the purpose of this study was to analyze the exam questions asked by the university instructors worked at different science departments, from the perspective of the cognitive levels of the Bloom s Taxonomy. Method In the study, document analysis method was used. Between 1999 and 2001, 787 exam questions which had been asked at physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics departments were collected with the help of 70 postgraduate students (with or without thesis) from these departments who were taking a Planning and Evaluation in Teaching course. The course has three theoretical and two practical hours. At the measurement and assessment of theoretical part of the course, students were taught the concept of cognitive development and the relationship between question and learning behaviors. Also, some activities about question development and classification of sample questions according to the cognitive development levels have been done. During the practical hours of the course, students from the same discipline were divided into small groups and the analyzed the questions gathered from their departments. In this process, experts from the science education departments of the Faculty Education also worked with the groups. Although the graduate students gathered 900 questions, some questions were not understandable or not agreed on the classification; therefore they were discarded. Remaining 787 questions were exam-
4 ÇEPN / An Analysis of University Science Instructors Examination Questions ined using the scale based on the Bloom s Taxonomy (Bloom, 1956). Data were presented with a graphic and a table by comparing the exam questions asked at the different departments. Discussion From the comparisons of the data, it was seen that 81 % of the questions were at the first three levels and only 19 % of them were at the last three levels of the cognitive domain. Moving from here, cognitive levels of the questions were seen surprisingly very low. These findings are found similar to the questions asked by science teachers at the primary and secondary schools in Turkey (Çepni, Ayvac & Kelefl, 2001; Çepni, Bacanak, Özsevgeç & Gökdere, 2001; Morgil & Bayan, 1996). Zoller (1993) and Zoller and Tsaparlis (1997) found that chemistry teachers mostly asked very low cognitive levels of exam questions to assess their students at high school levels and their questions were usually at the first three levels in the Bloom s taxonomy. Questions at the low levels of cognitive development only encourage students to memorize the facts and this hinders their intellectual development (Çepni & Azar, 1998). It influences majority of the students not to force themselves to think more creatively and examine some events in analytical ways. Even some of the future scientists who are chosen within these students are not frequently encountered with the high cognitive levels of questions during their formal education. It is believed that this negative situation influences the quality of their future products. Implications In order to improve assessment process, especially quality of exam questions at the university level, the following points should be taken into consideration: 1. University instructors are supposed to think more on the exam questions and use a scientific scale in the process of preparing them. In addition, some recommendations should be done to university instructors to give up the old tradition in which they teach their courses at low knowledge or comprehension levels and they prepare the exam questions parallel to their teaching levels. 2. Because of the fact that the most of the university instructors have not taken courses related to teaching profession during their academic development, they are not able to cope with the issues concerning to teaching, such as preparing questions according to the cognitive development levels or teaching active learning strategies in
5 82 EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES: THEORY&PRACTICE their courses. To solve these kinds of problems, some courses related to teaching and learning science and a course including measurement and assessment and asking high-level question techniques should be given to all university instructors. 3. Lastly, it is believed that many universities would have similar problems. For this reason, more large-scale similar studies similar should be conducted at all faculties and universities at undergraduate and graduate levels. In this way, many comparative studies should be done.
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