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Student Learning Challenge

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Since joining the faculty at Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC), I have consistently taught introductory biology courses.  I have made an observation that is disturbing to me about  success rate of the minority students, particularly African American students, in my section of these courses.  My colleagues who also teach sections of these courses say they see a similar lack of persistence.  My shift from institutions with well-established programs and well-supported intervention programs to a new institution has made me very cognizant of the need for intervention strategies for students who are at risk for non-persistence in the sciences at GGC.  We have in place at GGC in the Biology discipline a course and program assessment program that relies heavily on student ability to correctly answer a series of common questions on the final exam.  While this type of data can be informative, it does not capture data on the students who withdrew from the course.  While I can provide anecdotal evidence about why the student enrolled in my sections of the introductory Biology course choose to withdraw, there has not been a systematic analysis of the reasons given by students.

  As part of my plans for my year-long Research Residency, I will research, design and implement survey instruments to investigate the preparedness and motivation of students who enter GGC desiring to earn a degree in Biology.   One survey instrument would provide information about how prepared students think they are, but also establish their knowledge base using the Georgia Performance Standards for Science Education in Biology and Chemistry. The aim would be to determine if there are indicators of student likelihood to persist as a Biology major at GGC.  Another survey would be given to students who withdraw from either the introductory Biology or Chemistry courses to gather evidence as to their reasons.  The next phase would be to parse the data among different types of students (minorities, non-native English speakers, first generation college students, non-traditional students, students with heavy family obligations and students who are employed full-time and going to school full-time).  Within the Biology discipline at GGC, the goal will be to include as part of the curriculum in the introductory Biology (first two years) focused interventions like that can benefit all students enrolled in these courses.  Ideally, this information can be used as the foundation for a variety of departments within GGC to plan for targeted intervention strategies that will result in persistence by students who may be at risk. 

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