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Update 11/13/08

I've been collecting data all semester, and have started analyzing content data from the preassessment and from the shared exam questions.  The quiz data is ready to analyze, just haven't gotten to it yet.  Although the semester is not quite over, we've reached the point where the majors and non majors courses diverge significantly, so we'll have only a few questions in common on exam 3, and then the post test on the final.  We haven't done any interviews yet....that will come near the end of the semester, or even after the semester is over.  We have given a mid-semester survey to try to tease out how the students are different in the way they learn genetics.  I recently (yesterday!) put everythign together for a talk I gave on campus, so for a full update, please see the powerpoint attached below (UpdatedPresentation11-12-08). 




-The Genetics Assessment Tool (GAT):  To measure learning gains in genetics, I am using The Genetics Assessment Tool, recently developed by Michelle Smith, Bill Wood and myself at the University of Colorado (manuscript submitted to CBE/LSE, August 08).  This multiple choice tool tests concepts we believe are fundamental to understanding genetics.  Distractors were generated through over 30 student interviews, and approved by 10 genetics experts.  Below are links to the tool (Genetics Assessment Tool) and the tool with associated learning goals and answers (Genetics Assessment Tool with Learning Goals).  We are very interested in having other people use this tool in their courses, so please contact us if you are interested. (

-Quiz and Exam questions:  In addition to this pre-post assessment tool, we developed multiple choice questions that could be used in both the majors and non-majors classes to measure understanding of particular topics.  The quizzes serve as an indicator of how much students learn immediately following instruction, and the exams serve as an indicator of what students have learned after (we presume) studying the material.

- Biology CLASS:  measures student attitudes towards biology as a science and learning biology.

- surveys to measure study habits

- Group and Focus interviews to observe how students solve problems


1. Rate of repairing misconceptions:


We will characterize the progress students make towards understanding particular topics at 4 different times during the semester:


1.Administer the multiple choice GAT on the first day of class in bothcourses (PRE TEST)

2.Administer shared short multiple choice quiz after we address each topic already identified as a misconception are (WHAT THEY KNOW IMMEDIATELY AFTER INSTRUCTION)

3.Administer shared multiple choice exam questions at each of 3 midterm exams (WHAT THEY KNOW AFTER STUDYING)

4.Administer the multiple choice GAT as part of the final exam in both courses (POST TEST)




2. How do students think about and learn difficult genetics concepts?


For this question, my goal is to characterize the following:

1. PROCESS:How students approach problems; where they get stuck, and what they do when they get stuck (what resources do they use). Also, what changes between the first time they try to solve a hard problem and how they solve the hard problem near the end of the semester?

2. TIME:how much time do students spend studying and how often do they study.

3.PERCEPTION: do they think genetics is difficult; do they think solving problems or doing activities is helpful



Evaluation tools: surveys, think aloud and focus interviews

PROCESS: Think aloud/Focus group interviews

Students will be asked to do a series of two interviews, each of the same format, one near the beginning of the semester, and one near the end of the semester.

In the interview, students will be videotaped while working through a challenging problem (on a misconception topic), thinking aloud and working together to solve the problem.The videotape will be immediately played back to them, and the interviewer will then ask them to reflect on the process of solving the problem.(I still need to develop the questions the interviewer will ask).


PERCEPTION:Attitude Assessment (Bio CLASS):

attitudes towards biology (expert vs. novice), administered pre and post.



TIME and PERCEPTION:Possible survey questions (end of semester):

I spend __ hours per week reviewing material or studying

I review the material we are learning in class: several times a week, once a week, only right before the exam

Once I’ve taken the exam, I do/don’t go back to review that material again before the next exam/final.

I find genetics easy medium difficult

The in-class activities help me learn the topic more/less/same as lectures on these topics

The in-class activities help me learn the topic more/less/same as working through the homework



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