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Project title:  What happens when students ask their own questions instead of answering our questions?

1)  IRB:  I began my study last spring and currently have an approved IRB protocol, but I am planning changes to my study for this upcoming spring and will be submitting a modification request once I have settled on the changes and final study methods.  I am planning to submit the modification request before the end of the fall term.

2)  Accomplishments:  I have talked with several colleagues and the dean about the BSP, my involvement in sotl, and my project in particular.   Below are a few ideas about changes to my study in the spring with a brief summary of my project as well:

Summary of my sotl project:  I am interested in learning gains from students that engage in the activity of developing questions about new information that they encounter as opposed to being tested on the new material.  The students in my class have the assignment to develop Blooms level 2 –and-above questions based on their reading of their textbook for homework.  The students in my colleague’s class take a quiz based on reading the same textbook material.  My study last spring determined that there was not a significant quantitative difference in the learning of my students vs. my colleague’s students, but qualitatively the students that developed their own questions for homework enjoyed the process more than being tested.

 Changes for this spring:  I am thinking of re-designing my study instruments this spring to collect more qualitative information about if and how the students are reading the textbook differently in preparation to develop questions vs. in preparation to take a quiz.  Also I was thinking of having the two populations of students (question makers vs. quiz takers) each read and comment/respond to articles that are summaries from primary literature or the news at the beginning of class.  I am wondering if I provide the two groups of students with the same new information in the form of an article whether the comments and how the students deal with the new information will differ between the two groups.  I am wondering whether students that develop questions for homework over time will then develop the habit of asking questions when they encounter new material in general.

3)  Challenges:  I am still not entirely sure about the best design for my spring study above.  I am interested in determining if there are measureable learning gains over time for students that are prompted to ask questions as an assignment. 

I would benefit from any feedback or briefly bouncing ideas with someone in a phone conversation if this would be possible. 

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Hi Jean,

I like the idea of using some qualitative approaches to capture the "also learned" things (that might be intangible based on just a content-based test). You mentioned quite a few (attitude, ability to comment/respond to new material, habits of asking questions etc.). I think these are all important and valuable- so I would definitely keep thinking of ways to capture them (and not focus strictly on content learning gains). I am wondering about potentially having students do short writing exercises when presented with "new" material (news reports, short articles from e.g. Scientific American or Discover)- you could have a standard set of prompts, and look to see if their responses change over time (and if they change differently between the two groups- the question writers vs the quiz takers).

I also think it would be interesting to look at how they handle/approach the reading assignments knowing that they will either be taking a quiz or writing questions. That seems like something you could collaborate on with a literacy person from a College of Education, or maybe a psychologist with interests in cognitive stuff?

I will look forward to hearing more about it. But in the meantime, if your IRB needs to have a concrete protocol and copies of instruments and prompts to review for the modification, I would recommend that you start small with your new ideas and see what happens. You want to be able to hit the ground running in the spring, so you want that modification approved. And remember, you don't have to (and probably don't want to) try to do everything at once!

Take care,

Michele S.
Posted 16:24, 28 Nov 2011
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