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My plan on the night before presentations was to compare the spring 2010 performance on practicals and content-based exam questions to the 2008/2009 cohorts.  Then...I remembered that the 2007/2008 practical grades were adjusted since they were low (but not nearly as bad as 2009).  I do not have access to raw, unadjusted scores on the 2007/2008 practicals.  So...

 

Deliver the open-ended approach to the 2010 students.

Give a pre/post version of a lab practical to test for content.

Give students "unknown" specimens to test their understanding and use of the taxonomy they generate.

Give some form of an attitude assessment to the 2010 students.  It might be possible (valid?) to give an attitude assessment to the 2009 students who are still at Brescia.

Monitor intellectual development with a reflective journal generated as students develop their own classification scheme.

 

Update, March 10, 2010

Yeah, yeah, I'm late again.  I had to take students to Florida for a marine biology trip last week and was still trying to get everything together the week before that.  Sorry for the delay.

I'm currently in the revised portion of the class.  We spent the first 2-3 weeks just in review of the molec/cell and evolution material that they needed to give them a context for the "discovery" portion of the class.  The students have gone through Protista and Fungi with the new open-ended approach and had their first exam just prior to our spring break.

I do not have much data for assessment at this point.  I did give a pre-test that included all of the multiple choice and matching questions that I will give again on later tests during the semester.  Out of 50-some questions, most of the students only got four correct and one student got eight correct.  I sincerely hope that they'll do better on the questions when they see them again.  I have not had the chance to compare the responses on the pre-test to the same questions on their first regular exam.  I did just glance at overall exam grades, though.  It was encouraging to see the exam average at 85.8% compared to 71.5%, 79%, and 67.7% in the previous three years.

Students will be turning in their first reflective essay soon.  The first lab practical will be coming up soon, too. So I should have a better idea about how the course is going in a couple of weeks.

Anecdotally, I have seen some encouraging signs with the new approach.  The students have been incredibly efficient at dividing up the material for research and coordinating sharing of the material each of them finds.  I had been worried about them just flipping to the textbook for the "right" classification scheme but they have been using a variety of internet sources to identify structures, concepts, etc. and seem to be developing their own schemes.  I have been able on several occasions to walk them through confusing spots and get them to deduce functions, evolutionary pathways, etc.  They just seem to be thinking about material more than in previous years and they actually seem to be excited about it.  They have commented that they are initially overwhelmed when they begin research of each new group but that everything "falls in place" by the time they finish that group.  The thing that has made me the happiest, though, is their approach to the lab.    Traditionally, I had provided handouts of what students had to look for and had each week's specimens sorted, pretty much the way I've always seen that sort of lab taught.  This time, we started the semester with tables full of unsorted specimens.  The students did a crude (mistake-laden) sort the first week but have been increasingly refining their sorting each week.  I have to say that I LOVE watching them poke around in all of the specimens trying to find examples of the group that they have been discussing in lecture.  They even have been completely ignoring the labels on slides and specimen jars and have been identifying the material by the traits that they have learned from lecture.  They have been working as a team and there is generally a considerable amount of discussion about whether a specimen is part of a particular group and why or why not.  In 12 years of doing some form of this class, I have never seen students approaching the specimens like they are this semester.  I am hopeful that they will excel on the lab practicals.

Now, how to get all of those anecdotal observations into a reportable, preferably quantifiable, form...come on reflective essays!!

 

 

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