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2. Methods and findings

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8 Dec 2008 Update:

Just finished day 2 of data collection, so both sections have seen the lecture and roleplay exercise.  My impressions from the experience: it was much harder than I anticipated to switch gears on day 1 from lecture (first section) to roleplay (second section). In hindsight, I was overthinking the process (my colleague who came to watch the roleplay said he could see the wheels turning in my head the whole time, though he doubted that the students noticed). 

On the first day (Friday), both sections seemed content with the way the material was presented.  I especially noticed how much more organized the lecture was, compared to the relative chaos of the roleplay. There are pros and cons to both methods--the lecture class got a very linear outline of an immune response, but didn't really get any visuals to help them process the information.  The roleplay class got the visuals, but the information jumped around a bit so there wasn't as clear of a sequence of events.

On the second day (Monday), my first section was happy to be doing the roleplay. The second section was not thrilled to listen to lecture.  However, I noticed that many students referred back to Friday's roleplay as they were asking questions during the lecture.  It will be interesting to see what the learning data tells me!  I also gave them the survey of their learning gains after they took the second post-test on day 2.   Due to their reluctance in the lecture section, I am anticipating that the survey will show that they didn't like the order in which the material was presented.

10 Nov 2008 Update:

I have changed some things from the original proposed methodology below.  The main ideas have remained the same. I designed and implemented my revised pre- and post-test in my Immunology class this semester.  Two of the five higher order thinking questions need to be reworked, as does the question about pre-class preparation.  They were ambiguously worded.  Because I had to throw out two of these questions, I'm not sure if I'll have enough useful data from the small Immunology class to draw any conclusions. We'll see what happens when I sit down to do the analysis.

Another wrinkle in the procedure was that I had a much larger Immunology class this semester (24 students), and found that it was much more difficult to conduct the role-play with all students involved.  It seems that 10-15 is the perfect number (at least in my hands). The overall learning data still looks solid, but I was not as happy with the role-play experience this semester, as in previous semesters.

 I conducted the VARK learning styles survey in both classes (POB and Immunology) at the beginning of the semester, and have entered that data in preparation for the role-play in POB later in the semester.  The learning styles data are very interesting, especially in my larger introductory class--we have quite a large number of kinesthetic learners.  I would like to continue collecting this data in the future, because I think it will be valuable in tailoring course content to the needs of our students.

I analyzed the original ten multiple choice questions from my Immunology class this semester, and saw a similar gain in knowledge between pre- and post-test.  I still need to look at the higher order thinking questions, etc in a more detailed analysis.  I wrote up the role-play as a curriculum submission for ASM's MicrobeLibrary, and used the basic knowledge data (original ten multiple choice questions) as my baseline for the effectiveness of the exercise.

As I prepared my IRB proposal, I found that the SALG survey site did not let me craft questions the way I wanted for students to report their own opinions on their learning from the exercise. (This is likely at least partially due to my inexperience with the site). So, I created my own (very short) survey for the students to fill out.  I did not use this in the Immunology class at the beginning of the semester.

So, what's still left to do? The big "experiment" of switching role-play and lecture occurs in the beginning of December.  We'll see what happens!

 

Methods

I propose to test my question using the following methods:

1. I will re-design my pre-test/post-test to include the original 10 multiple choice questions (to be able to compare data between the years), and add 5 more questions that test higher order cognitive thinking (based upon Bloom's taxonomy).  Note: I am assuming that my students have no background in the topic before they arrive in class.  This is partially controlled by the pre-test.  I also want to add a question about whether students prepared for class by reading the textbook, in order to determine control for this influence on their answers, especially in the post-tests (see below).  See the Appendices section for the pre-test and post-tests.

2. I will consult with and receive approval from my campus IRB committee.

3. I will conduct this experiment with both sections of my Principles of Biology class.  This gives me a large number of students to work with, and allows me to test my hypothesis directly (see more about this below). Note: I am assuming that the two sections are equivalent.  I will compare the class performance (based upon grades received thus far) to determine whether this is true.

4. Both sections will take the pre-test at the beginning of class (15 minutes of class time)

5. One section (to be determined at random) will listen to a traditional lecture.  The other section will perform the roleplay.  (40 minutes of class time)  Both sections will be taught by me, thus minimizing instructor differences.

6. Each section will take post-test #1 at the end of class (15 minutes of class time)

7. During the next class period, each section will listen to the same content using the alternative format. (The section that performed the roleplay on the first day will listen to lecture, the section that had lecture on the first day will perform the roleplay). (40 minutes of class)

8. Each section will take post-test #2 at the end of class (15 minutes of class).

9. I will also include a few questions on the final exam and measure "long-term" learning gains. (Approximately one week later)

10. SALG survey of student opinions on their learning.

 

Analysis

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