Not knowing whether one has actually helped students learn is one of the most frustrating aspects of teaching. Assuming an absence of megalomania or the Dunning-Kruger effect, indications that we’ve made a difference are typically quite vague and ambiguous. So I was pleasantly surprised — as in, “hey, maybe students really did benefit from this” — by the results of a knowledge probe that I launched at the beginning and end of the semester in my course on economic development and environmental politics.
The knowledge probe was an ungraded quiz that asked questions about a few basic economic concepts, administered through Google Forms in the first and last weeks of the semester. Results, showing percentage of respondents answering correctly, are below.
N = 21
N = 16
|Diminishing Returns to Capital||52||75||44|
|Common Pool Resource Problem||48||81||69|
Obviously this wasn’t the perfect tool. Sample sizes are too small for statistical significance. And a slightly different proportion of students reported previously taking a university economics course on the pre-test than on the post-test. But the numbers at minimum suggest that students learned something over the semester, which gave me a sense of satisfaction that I otherwise wouldn’t have.