Knowledge Surveys


Knowledge surveys consist of a set of questions that cover the full breadth of content and levels of inquiry within a course. Students typically complete the survey at the beginning, middle, and end of the course, indicating their perceived ability to answer questions about selected course concepts and content. A knowledge survey may also be modified to include a smaller set of questions for use between exams. It follows that Knowledge Surveys may be used to evaluate the effectiveness of new pedagogies and any impact they have on students' acquisition of content knowledge. They may also be used by academic departments to evaluate curricula.

Benefits of Knowledge Surveys 

For Faculty: 

  • through writing the survey, faculty distinguish ancillary information from core concepts and course content 
  • when survey questions are classified using Blooms Taxonomy, they can reveal the instructional emphasis placed on various levels of understanding 
  • the survey serves as an outline for articulating course learning objectives 
  • pre-course surveys can be used to assess students prior knowledge of a subject area while both pre- and mid- course survey responses allow faculty to prioritize class time to address student learning deficiencies and needs 
  • a survey may be used to assess the overall learning of a class and, when results are evaluated longitudinally within a semester, provide information about learning gains. 

For Students: 

  • the surveys clarify course objectives and serve as study guides to relevant knowledge 
  • the survey helps students develop self-assessment skills related to their learning strategies 
  • comparison of survey results throughout the course can help students "see" their learning progress


Bowers, N; Brandon, M. and C Hill. (2005). The use of a knowledge survey as an indicator of student learning in an introductory biology course. Cell Biology Education 4 (4), 311-322.

Nuhfer, E., and D Kipp. (2001). The Knowledge Survey: A Tool for All Reasons. To Improve the Academy (21), 59-78.

Wirth, Karl and Dexter Perkins. (2005). Knowledge Surveys: An Indispensable Course Design and Assessment Tool. Innovations in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.


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