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Research Design

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Research Design - updates as of Oct. 2, 2009

The research will be conducted in an introductory biology course with 4 class exams and 1 comprehensive final exam.  Students will work in permanent groups of 5 throughout the semester to answer in-class questions, work on case studies, and take group exams.  The groups will be instructor-determined; each group will contain 1 strong student, 1 weak student and the rest distributed randomly.  Student classifications will be determined by grades earned in the preceding prerequisite course.

Each class exam is taken first individually.
After turning in the individual exam and within the same class period, groups will convene and take a subset of questions from the individual exam.

UPDATE:  In the first group exam of the semester, I included 1 new question not on the individual exam.

Retention of group tested and non-group tested concepts will be determined by including questions from both categories on the comprehensive final.  I will compare the # of correct answers from the two categories (group-tested and non-group tested) to see if they differ.
UPDATE:  In order to better address the retention idea I decided to set up a voluntary session after the fall semester ends - probably in early February - to expose the students to questions on topics that were 1) covered in the group exams and in the individual exams, 2) covered in the individual exams but not in the group exams and 3) covered only in the group exams.  I'll reward their attendance with the promise of food, and will bill the session as a "survey" to minimize any review studying (not that they will, since the grades will be in).  Since the grades are in, I can't compel their attendance so I expect I will have fewer students repond than were enrolled in the class, and that I might see a slightly different group of students - those who did badly overall I expect might not want to have anything to do with the class follow-up session. 

One variable to be controlled is the extra time spent on the group tested concepts - one might argue that the additional time spent on questions during the group phase could cause better retention and the engagement with the group has nothing to do with it.  From past experience with group exams, I anticipate that in the groups  students will spend an additional 2 minutes per question.  To control for this additional time, I would need to contrive a way for students to spend an additional 2 minutes alone on non-group tested concepts in a setting that precludes cheating.  I’m not sure how to do this.

UPDATE:  I still don't see anyway to control for this, so I think the only thing I can do is acknowledge the problem when it comes time to put together the paper.

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