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 Ok, I've taken your comments and edited. I'm now under the character limit. What do you think?

Efficacy of a roleplay demonstration compared to traditional lecture in teaching basic immunology to undergraduates 

 

Samantha Elliott Kerry. St. Mary’s College of Maryland, St. Mary’s City, MD

 

Background: Active learning exercises are considered to foster deeper levels of student understanding.  However, in the sciences it can be difficult to perform these types of exercises without some kind of factual background, usually given in a lecture format or by extensive reading before class.   To determine whether an active learning exercise can replace a lecture to introduce new material, the efficacy of an exercise in which students role play as cells of the immune system was compared to traditional lecture of the same material.  Methods: This research was performed with two identical sections of an introductory biology class, both taught by the author.  Both sections experienced a traditional lecture and an interactive role play exercise about the immune system during two consecutive classes, but the order in which these were conducted were reversed.  Students were given a set of 15 multiple choice questions that tested basic recall and application of information in a pre-test/post-test format.  Surveys of student learning styles and attitudes about the role play were also conducted.  Results: No matter the approach, the number of correct answers on the post-test after the first class period was significantly higher than the pre-test.  Students who first experienced lecture averaged 1 more question correct on the post-test compared to their peers who experienced the role play.  However, after the second class period, there was no statistical difference in learning between the two sections, or in retention during the final exam.  There were no significant differences in student performance on the post-tests when learning styles were examined.  An analysis of student attitudes about the role play is currently ongoing.  Conclusions: While active learning exercises can engage students in the material and bring concepts to life, the structure of a traditional lecture may still be the best way to introduce new information to students. 



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Your abstract is too long--limit is 1850. So, my suggestion would be to pare down the methods and results section a little. You could probably leave out the sentence on IRB approval (since we all had to have that). Just after that, you could probably shorten by saying the two groups both did the role play and had a lecture, but in the opposite orders. In the results, do you have to mention the statistical analysis and significance? I'd save that for the actual poster, just saying "significantly" or "not significantly" different. Finally, At the end of the results, you list off several ways in which they were not different--perhaps you could just say --in several other survey questions, the students were not significantly different (and then elaborate on that in the actual poster).
Posted 16:05, 14 Feb 2009
Hi Samantha,
I agree with Jenny that your abstract could be abbreviated, but my preference would be to leave the data and make the intro, methods and discussion more concise. I also think that the IRB sentence can be deleted. You have tested a specific type of active learning - role playing in a particular form - so I think that you can delete the first 2 sentences and start directly on role playing as a form of active learning. You note the importance for kinesthetic learners, but don't say whether or not you determined if any students actually had this preference. If most of the class had alternative preferences, then your results would not be surprising. Your conclusion is mainly a restatement of the results, but instead it could try to delve into reasons for the results and suggest where to next. In particular is there still a reason to continue looking at role playing? That is, an alternative way in which to carry out the role playing?
Posted 08:39, 15 Feb 2009
Hi Samantha,

For details on the abstract formatting requirements (assuming you are submitting to AMS-CUES), check out: http://www.asmcue.org/page05b.shtml. You already recognize that it is too long, so like Jenny and Chris I am going to focus on what can be cut.

This abstract gives a complete story. I feel like I don't need to look at the poster, because you've told me the entire project (fascinating, by the way). Many of the results/stats can be reserved for the poster itself, like Jenny suggested. I like the discussion on the methods because it is a uniquely controlled experimental design that may intrigue readers into wanting to read more, but it could be tightened up. I would reduce your background to something like:

"Active learning exercises are considered to foster deeper levels of student understanding. To determine whether an active learning exercise can replace a lecture to introduce new material, the efficacy of an exercise in which students role play as cells of the immune system was compared to traditional lecture. I hypothesized that students with kinesthetic learning preferences would perform better when role play was used to introduce the material."

Try removing the headings (Background, Methods, etc.) to cut some more characters.


Posted 11:19, 15 Feb 2009
Nice research. I agree with all the above comments. I would make the conclusion stronger. As Chris points out you merely restate the data, but what do you conclude from this data. Ditch role-play? Does it have some other utility with respect to student learning that you did not measure? Anything anecdotal from the students comments that you lead you in another direction to see the impact of role play?
Posted 07:52, 17 Feb 2009
I love the challenge of cutting words and sentences out of an abstract. Clearly I am NOT a normal person. Ok, first things first, why do you think that the role-play didn't have more of an impact on the students? I found this part really intriguing. As Alix suggests, maybe that is worth a comment or two at the end.

Ok here are some things that can help you get closer to the character limit!

For the Intro segment: savings of 163 characters!

Background: Active learning exercises foster deeper levels of student understanding but can be difficult to perform in science classes when the students lack the factual background. This poster explores whether role-playing exercises on the role of cells in the immune system can replace a lecture in an introductory biology class for majors. I hypothesized that students with kinesthetic learning preferences would perform better when role play was used to introduce the material. (and maybe you don't really need that last sentence???)

ok, gotta go to class but will try to add more character saving ideas later!
edited 10:24, 17 Feb 2009
Posted 10:23, 17 Feb 2009
great study. We need this type of data. I agree with most of the suggestions you have been given. Look forward to seeing the final meeting. Sherri
Posted 10:54, 17 Feb 2009
Yeah I definitely threw together the conclusion in a hurry by just rehashing what was said. I'm editing it this morning and I'll take all your comments into consideration. Thanks for the help!
Posted 09:51, 18 Feb 2009
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