The chemical substances inventory (CSI) survey is a formative assessment tool for learning about how students think about identifying and differentiating chemical substances. It has been tested in middle school, high school, and university chemistry classes. More information about the CSI survey is freely available in our open-access article in the Journal of Chemical Education. The CSI survey itself, which is also freely available in the supporting information, can be adapted by teachers to use as they wish.
There are four different sets (versions) of the CSI survey, which can be used by teachers at different time points to assess students’ learning progress. These are provided below as both pdf and Word documents. Each set reveals a wide range of ways that students classify and differentiate substances. To use this formative assessment, choose one of the sets and ask students to respond to it. We have found that this can work both individually and in small groups. We have also provided a rubric along with examples of where teachers might use these in their curriculum.
Our study of students’ responses to the CSI survey allowed us to characterize 8 main ways that students think about identifying substances. Each of these is present in the thinking of the entire educational range from novice to advanced students. This means that the sophistication of students’ chemical identity thinking grows in all of these ways. In other words, each way of thinking has productive roots that can be built upon to grow from intuitive toward scientifically normative thinking. Teachers can respond to the disciplinary substance in students’ thinking about chemical identity by noticing when students reason in these ways, and then supporting students to progress in their learning from the productive roots of their chemical identity thinking.