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Pre-Capstone Assignment - Bill Staddon

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My project addresses problem solving exercises do with my microbiology students. This upper-division class is taken by our biology majors. Briefly, students are assigned problems which they then discuss amongst themselves in class. Students then come to my office on an individual basis where they have five minutes to convince me they understand the answer. The principal purpose of my study has been to gain insights of what is happening in the class and with students during these exercises. I have been gathering data on a variety of items including how many classmates the students talk to, their nervousness during the oral presentation and the influence of their own tenacity.

I was late starting in the fall semester of 2012 and was able to get a good data set for one round of problems. This spring, data was collected for three rounds of the problems. At the time of writing this summary, I just begun analyzing this data. In addition to the questions asked in the fall, students in the spring were also to give brief descriptions of how they decided whom to listen to. As well, they described how they knew ready to present the answer to the problem.

The data collection went well. However, I had hoped to gather information about metacongintion and motivation for learning but time ran out in the semester. In future, I hope to get started collecting data earlier in the semester.

In future semesters, I want to focus more on how students think about what their peers have told them and how they come to decide they have the correct answer. These are issues of critical thinking and self-reflection. I am hoping that the open-response answers collected this semester will allow the creation of a Likert scale based assessment to address these questions.

From my preliminary analysis (using correlation data) I have found that:

  • Students who understood the problem were more likely to develop their own answers.
  • Students who required help from others were less likely to develop answers on their own.
  • Tenacity (grit) was related to the students willingness to be actively engaged in discussion with others.
  • Student’s nervousness about presenting their answers to me went down with each round.
  • Student’s, even after three rounds of problems, were not overall not receptive to have their grades determined by such an exercise.

Reference

Duckworth, A.L. and P.D. Quinn (2009) Development and validation of the short grit scale (Grit-S) Journal of Personality Assessment 9:166-174.

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