Questions for Biology

This large project spanning Botany, Zoology, and Microbiology and Immunology, designs and validates concept inventories targeting challenging biology concepts. Q4B uses these inventories in biology classrooms to assess areas of student misconceptions (using pre and post tests) and as diagnostic tests. We also make these inventories available to colleagues at UBC, at other institutions across Canada, and beyond through publications.


Q4B, inspired by the force concepts inventory in physics, emerged from an identified need to measure student learning in selected biology courses. It adapts well-established methods of concept inventory development to create a set of validated biology concept inventories which allow identification of misconceptions that impede learning, and measurement of conceptual learning gain in a wide variety of courses.

Outcomes and impact

  • To date, more than 10,000 students benefited from these concept inventories at UBC
  • These inventories have been used by more than 20 UBC faculty members in all first year and select upper level biology courses multiple times over the years as pre- and post-tests providing direct evidence of student learning
  • The peer-reviewed publications reached out to many biology instructors nationally and internationally benefiting their students
  • Inventories change our understanding of students’ preconceptions and/or misconceptions about specific topics in biology, and allow us to develop targeted activities to improve student learning


The project brought together a large group of dedicated instructors, from three different departments. Working on the development of these inventories brought us together as a community and provided us with different ways of capturing student learning.

Skylight’s contribution

Skylight supported the scholarship of teaching and learning activities of faculty members working closely with them in the research design, implementation and dissemination (conferences and peer reviewed journals) of teh work. Skylight led the ethics protocol development for the approval by the Behavioral Research and Ethics Board of UBC. Skylight played a key role bringing the community of educators together centred on this project. Skylight also provided project oversight and management along with funding through Skylight Development Grants and in-kind contributions.


Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

  1. Erica Jeffery, Kathy Nomme, Thomas Deane, Carol Pollock, Gülnur Birol, Investigating the Role of an Inquiry-based Biology Lab Course on Student Attitudes and Views toward Science,  CBE Life Sciences Education, 15, 4, 61.1-61.12, 10.1187/cbe.14-11-0203, Winter 2016
  2. Thomas Deane, Erica Jeffery, Kathy Nomme, Gülnur Birol, Carol Pollock, Development of the Statistical Reasoning in Biology Concept Inventory, CBE Life Sciences Education, 15, 1-13, doi: 10.1187/cbe.15-06-0131, Spring 2016
  3. Thomas Deane, Erica Jeffery, Kathy Nomme, Gülnur Birol, Carol Pollock, Biological Experimental Design Concept Inventory Development, CBE Life Sciences Education, 13(3):540-51. doi: 10.1187/cbe.13-11-0218, Fall 2014
  4. Pamela Kalas, Angie O’Neill, Carol Pollock, Gülnur Birol, Development of a Meiosis Concept Inventory, CBE Life Sciences Education, Winter;12(4):655-64, doi: 10.1187/cbe.12-10-0174, 2013

Select Conference Abstracts

  1. Carol Pollock, Joan Sharp, A workshop on building and using biology concept inventories, at the Pearson Biology Leadership Forum, Toronto, Nov, 2010
  2. Malin Hansen, Design of a conceptual inventory in fundamental ecology. The Ecological Society of America, 95th Annual Meeting. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Aug 2010
  3. Pamela Kalas, Angie O’Neill, Carol Pollock, Joan Sharp, Concept Inventories, BCBio, Squamish, May 2011
  4. Greg Bole, Angie O’Neill, Carol Pollock, Joan Sharp, Workshop: How to Develop and Use Concept Inventories in Biology, The Western Conference on Science Education, London, Ontario, July 2011
  5. James Cooke, Pamela Kalas, Erica Jeffery, Martha Mullally, Carol Pollock, Kathy Nomme, Thomas Deane, Angie O’Neill, Gülnur Birol, Fostering Research on Connected Learning: Concept Inventories as Evaluation Tools, Improving University Teaching Conference, July 2014

Websites and resources