Submission Date


Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access



Faculty Mentor

Jennifer Stevenson


Presented during the 19th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 21, 2017 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

Assessing learning is a crucial part of the academic process, and most assessments rely on explicit evaluations such as tests and quizzes on the material. One example of implicit evaluation is the Structural Assessment of Knowledge (SAK) which assess how students organize knowledge structures. The current study investigates students’ learning of structure-function relationships and neuronal physiology and introductory and advanced neuroscience courses. In addition, the current study considers whether there are differences between experts knowledge structures. Undergraduate students rated pairs of concepts in terms of their similarity before and after class learning. Pathfinder software was used to evaluate students’ SAK both before and after learning. For structure-function relationships, introductory and advanced courses differed in many aspects including similarity and links in common with the expert; however, the only difference observed before and after learning was improved coherence. In contrast, for neuronal physiology, changes in SAK differed by class for number of links in common with the expert. Students in the introductory course showed an increase in links in common with the expert whereas students in the advanced course did not show a change over time. Finally, experts’ SAK varied dramatically. These results suggest that differences in conceptual maps can be affected time and/or class, depending on the topic at hand. There are most likely more factors that may influence how effective the SAK approach is at evaluating neuroscience acquisition of knowledge, such as sample size of the participants being tested.