Card sorts are an easy and effective way to peer into students' brains to see how they perceive your course material. Each person assimilates and organizes new information differently, and typical exams do not reveal how the learner "sees" things. There are several excellent techniques for eliciting mental models, but the card sort is easy to develop, administer, and analyze. Here is a PDF of the presentation from the CETL Teaching Matters discussion, and here is the website developed by B. Hill on mental model analysis in general. Call me with questions and if you would like to give it a whirl. You'll probably be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Using card sorts for mental model analysis
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