Assessing understanding of the most important concepts and tasks in a course at the beginning and end of the course, allows instructors to determine what students know when they start the course and how much they learned in the course. Students’ prior knowledge could be correct, incomplete and/or faulty. If prior knowledge is faulty (misconceptions) students might resist or ignore new information that conflicts with it. Pre-/post-testing also allows instructors to determine what misconceptions students come with and how much conceptual change happens during a module or a course. 

  • Design and administer the same test at the beginning and end of a module or course. Include questions that will bring to the surface common misconceptions students have on the content covered.
    • Think about administering a test in Gradescope, which makes it easy to see common mistakes because grading is problem-by-problem. You can view assignment statistics to further hone in on problems students struggled with.

We are looking for examples! Please contact us ( if you have implemented pre-/post-testing in your course.


Key resource:

  • Adams, W. K., & Wieman, C. E. (2011). Development and validation of instruments to measure learning of expert‐like thinking. International Journal of Science Education33(9), 1289–1312. DOI


  • Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How students’ prior knowledge affect their learning? "How learning works". John Wiley & Sons.
  • Bransford, J. D., & Johnson, M. K. (1972). Contextual prerequisites for understanding: Some investigations of comprehension and recall. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11(6), 717–726. DOI 
  • Chi, M. T. H. (n.d.). Two kinds and four sub-types of misconceived knowledge, ways to change it, and the learning outcomes. International Handbook of Research on Conceptual Change. RoutledgeDOI 
  • Peeck, J., Van den Bosch, A. B., & Kreupeling, W. J. (1982). Effect of mobilizing prior knowledge on learning from text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 74(5), 771–777. DOI 
  • Resnick, L. B. (1983). Mathematics and science learning: a new conception. Science, 220(4596), 477–478. DOI