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Assessment Capstone Thoughts...

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My time since last summer has been hectic and rewarding, a mix of personal and professional challenges.  My initial proposal from last summer---using student presentations of microbiology journal articles in my junior/senior level Microbiology course---went fine.  It was not easy to “push” the students toward ownership of their choices (and more particularly, how to select a paper that will be straightforward to present to others), but students rose to the challenge.  The “tiered” approach to this project met some student criticism:  there were many requirements in my course.  Thus, I need to step back and look carefully at “spacing” assignments and due dates.  I need to formalize my rubric for student evaluation of the talks, and I suspect I need to make those presentations available (via Moodle) rather than just during the short talk.  In other words, I experienced the typical “ups and downs” of trying new approaches (or in my case, expanding on them). 


My major problem is how to measure assessment, other than by performance on exams (when I put presentation related questions on exams), or following rubric objectives.  I clearly need to learn more about this aspect of assessment. 


I continue to do a “pre” and “post” test of students in my Microbiology course.  They take the test the first day of class, and on the last day.  Because my class size is modest (20 – 24), I don’t know how to glean statistics effectively, but I do know that in all cases, students performed “better” on the multiple choice test at the end of the class than they did at the beginning.  It’s clear that my students are learning! 


I have been thinking about how this applies to my larger (48 student) freshman course.  I wonder if a pre and post test approach would be useful here.  The audience is quite different.   What I did find is that students REALLY enjoyed “other ways” of approaching course material.  I have been using a “collaborative” model for my antibiotic resistance lecture, an approach championed by Daniel Klionsky of the University of Michigan: 


I strongly recommend reading Dr. Klionsky’s articles on using this approach for teaching (listed on his website). 


In addition, I used a “creative” approach with my freshman, to help them gain deeper knowledge of subject matter.  It may seem “arts and crafts,” but as I grade their final exams, it is clear to me that this approach  works.  I wrote about it here: 


In summary, I have made progress, and look forward to making more progress in the future.  I need to learn a great deal more about statistical measures of learning, clearly.