To take a snapshot of what students think about certain topics so that they can return at the end of the course and see how their thinking has changed.
On the first day of class, tell students that you would like them to take the Baseline Survey as soon as possible so that they have an unbiased record of their thinking before the course. Ask them to do this before reading any assignments, and warn them that they should plan to spend at least 30 minutes on this assignment.
It is also important to stress the following points:
- Their answers will remain confidential and not be shared with others.
- They should try to answer as openly and honestly as possible.
- They can skip any questions that they prefer not to answer.
- They should take the survey alone and uninterrupted by others.
- They should be sure to answer clearly and in full sentences.
- If an item is confusing, they should just answer the best they can.
- Later in the course, they'll be able to return and reread their answers.
Toward the end of the course, ask the students to return to the Baseline Survey, read their original answers, and write a 2-3 page paper about how their thinking has changed.
Instead of requiring a paper, instructors may simply ask students to visit the web site and be prepared to talk in class about any changes they experienced. If you choose this option, ask students to print a copy of their answers and bring it to class so they have a record in front of them. If your classroom has an Internet connection and projector, you might also project Baseline Survey items during this class discussion.
This "pre-post" assignment is often quite powerful because it provides students with tangible evidence that they have learned important things in the course. Instructors can also heighten the impact of this assignment by (1) customizing the Baseline Survey items (click on the Baseline Survey Instructor's Area for details); and (2) reading student responses to the Baseline Survey and highlighting key areas in which a shift in thinking was apparent.