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Abstract

Preliminary pilot studies and a field study show how a generalizable conceptual framework calibrated with item response modeling can be used to describe the development of student conceptual understanding in chemistry. ChemQuery is an assessment system that uses a framework of the key ideas in the discipline, called the Perspectives of Chemists, and criterion-referenced analysis using item response models (item response theory (IRT)) to map student progress. It includes assessment questions, a scoring rubric, item exemplars, and a framework to describe the paths of student understanding that emerge. Integral to criterion-referenced measurement is a focus on what is being measured: the intention of the assessment, its purpose, and the context in which it is going to be used. The Perspectives framework allows us to begin to narrate the development of understanding that occurs as students “learn'' over the course of instruction, helping to form a crosswalk among educational science standards and underscore the importance of scientific reasoning with domain knowledge. Here, we explain a framework we have investigated in chemistry and present evidence on measures of student understanding to describe the development of conceptual understanding at the high school and university levels. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed93:56–85, 2009