GoKart cognitive interview

car at gas station

The GoKart cognitive interview is a formative assessment that is designed to be a one-on-one conversation between a teacher and a student. It provides insight to the teacher about how the student thinks about relationships between chemical nature and properties, and how the student reasons about consequences. This tool has been tested by teachers with middle school, high school, and undergraduate students.

Cognitive interviewing is an approach borrowed from qualitative research. It is mainly about listening and probing for more information, expressing genuine interest in the student’s ideas without passing judgment on anything the student says. The GoKart cognitive interview asks the student to choose a fuel to power GoKarts at a new amusement park attraction. The options presented are gasoline derived from petroleum, gasoline from wood pellets, E85, and natural gas. Students are told that gasoline from either source is composed primarily of octane, E85 of ethanol, and natural gas of methane. The interview begins with the general question, and then progressively introduces more information about the fuels, each time asking if the new information is relevant, whether it changes the student’s decision, and why. It is important to progress through the interview in the prescribed order. One interview takes about 10 minutes.

You can use this tool to get a general picture of the range of thinking present among students in a class. Try inviting a student who “gets it”, a student who “struggles but earnestly tries”, and a student somewhere in between these two, to discuss this problem with you. The interview is designed so that students can approach the decision from multiple perspectives, and with basis in various sources of knowledge that they have. When you interview a student, begin by reassuring the student that there is no one right answer, and in fact, experts disagree about the answers to these questions. Print the five interview pages, or show them on the screen of a tablet or other screen. You may want to audio record the interviews (if you first ask permission of the student) so that you can listen to them later and focus during the interview on following what the student says.

The 5-page interview (each page is one prompt) can be found below. We have also published three papers about what we learned about students’ thinking from using this tool. Please feel welcome to email () and ask us to send these to you if you are not able to obtain them through your library.