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6/2013 -- 2013-2014 Assessment Residency Reflection


  • Identify and describe one of your courses that will serve as your “project course” for the work you do at the Institute. 

I'm planning to use my Introduction to Microbiology for Health Sciences lecture and laboratory course (BIOL 240) as my project during the assessment laboratory. I've been teaching this course, or a similar course since I began teaching 3 years ago.  Having started at UAA just this past January, I taught the lecture and lab using the established syllabii and texts this past semester - and will be instituting substantial changes to the assessmen (see below) and lab sections of the course this coming fall.  I'd like to re-vamp the style of the lecture as well over the net 2 years. 

  • What constraints influence how you teach this course?  (e.g., large class size, laboratory format, non-majors) 

This course is a higher enrollment course (100-130/lecture and 8 lab sections).  Additionally, the majority of students have limited knowledge of basic biological concepts (HS or lower biology course only), are minority students (Alaska native, immigrant students) and are under-prepared for the rigors of intensive lab courses.  For many of them, learning to study and take notes is as much of a barrier as the fundamental concepts taught in the course.

  • What do you hope the students will learn in your course?

         I've been moving back to the basics with these students - focusing on global course learning objectives.  I'm currently working on determining those for my lecture course, but the lab objectives for students are as follows: 

 - Understand, describe and remember key concepts, terms, relationships and so on.
 - Apply content to case studies using tests performed in class.
 - Relate microbiology to the clinical practice of Nursing/Dental Tech/so on.
 - Discuss the societal and personal implications of the general public understanding microbiology.
 - Describe how and why your attitude toward microbes has changed (or not).
 - Know how to read technical and general material about microbiology and interpret it based on facts, rather than supposition.

  • How do you determine whether students have achieved the learning you describe in question #3?

         I'm still in the process of restructuring the assessment for this course.  Here is what's been done previously -

Previously, the lecture and lab were combined in a 75%/25% assessment split - where the lecture assessment was 2 midterms and a final multiple choice exam and the lab contained  large amount of homework, quizzes, practical exams, 2 projects and out of class interpretation.  In essence, the lab assessment is a huge proportion of the students (and instructors) time - but a small part of the assessment.  The exams that were given were primarily knowledge level questions pulled from the book and not linked to major course concepts. Student comments from previous semesters indicated that the amount of work in the lab was excessive for the % of the overall grade - and after teaching this past semester I fully agree.

This past semester, I used a combination assessment for the course - with in-class talking points worth ~10% of their final grade and the remainder of the assessment in exam format (MC and free response).  The students performed extremely poorly on the free response sections (questions pulled directly from lecture) - lowering their average by 8%.  Discussions with the students indicate that they are not used to Free Response questions in their courses, and many of my students left questions blank. Students commented that they did not like the Free Reponse, and that they did like the in-class questions/discussions that we held.  One of their main criticisms was that the exams encompassed too much material.

This coming semester, I'm thinking of increasing the nuber of lecture exams (to 4 + a comprehensive final), and using mastering microbiolgy for a small percentage of their lecture grade.  Their lab assessment will be decreased (using a custom lab manual with custom targeted-assesment/questions) and one project may be moved to the lecture assessment to balance the workload.  I'm still exploring what the division of assessment (% lab/lecture and % exams/non-exam) will give a balanced, yet effective assessment.

  • Provide a list of 3–4 specific assessment strategies you are most interested in exploring during the Assessment Institute?

I'm very interested in case-based, pre-lecture on-line assessment (where the students review topics, watch videos or read and respond to questions prior to lecture) and flipping the lab (to reduce instructor-by-instructor variability - which is substantial and evident in student DWF rates).  I'd like to focus the students in lecture and lab on using course concepts rather than the memorize and regurgitate style which the course previously was setup as.

I'd also like to learn how to assess the efficacy of these methods on student learning to focus on the best methods in the future.

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