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Context & Problem

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*Large Introductory Microbiology Course (allied health)

*No prerequisites

*Diverse student population

 

 

 

Even among students who attend class regularly, a subset do not perform well on exams. Exams are composed equally of multiple choice and short essay questions.

Students lack metacognition skills and are not given enough opportunities in class to practice "write-to-learn" study techniques.

 

 Studies have shown that

*enforced learning activities

*frequent testing (short answer quizzes)

improve student learning outcomes and retention

 

 Question:  Does more frequent assessment promote student learning outcomes? 

 

*Does it increase the mean exam scores for the class as a whole? 

*Does it decrease the number of failures (<D)?

*Does this intervention narrow the "gap" in performance between high-risk and low-risk students?

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I teach public health microbiology each semester (24 students) who have had one semester of A&P (A&P II can be taken concurrently with micro).

In the past I have given a pre-chapter quiz, which the students take individually and then as a group for each chapter before I cover it in class; each student's grade is the average of their individual and their group scores. These quizzes do not seem to affect their exam scores, even when quiz questions are on the exams. Nor are group quiz grades much higher when compared to individual quiz scores. It often appears that for several questions per quiz there is no knowledgeable person in the group, even though they knew they had to read the chapter in advance of taking the quiz.

I also use short-answer questions on exams, often with a graph or a figure which were used in lecture, but most students do very poorly on these questions. Next semester for each exam I will probably give them a set of potential short-answer questions in advance and then use up to five of them on the exam.

I am using more and more in-class assignments in which they analyze a research article with content that is relevant to that topic we are covering in the course (some articles are real case studies, some are discovery science, some are hypothesis-driven, some are epidemiological, etc.)

I would rate almost all of my students "high-risk" (low performing with poor preparation).

There seems to be little or no relationship between attendance and grade (most of these students attend regularly because they know they think they need an A or B to get into most health degree programs; they actually only need a C).

So I would definitely be interested in knowing what sorts of interventions and assessments you use and how they affect overall performance. edited 16:31, 17 Jul 2009
Posted 16:13, 17 Jul 2009
Can you use a course management tool to help them take more quizzes without you taking class time. You can grade these as 2, 1,0. You can do a quick scan of the papers to determine 2 or 1. If they put down anything realistic they get 2 points. If it is garbage, they get 1, so they focus a little bit more.

I have also had them do HW, bring it in and we start the class going overing the HW. They are graded on 2,1,0.

Could the TA help you grade?

To get at Jenny's question, you could ask a multiple choice question and have them justify the answer or say why the others are incorrect.
Posted 16:24, 17 Jul 2009
Some colleagues and I have created a metacognition exercise (implemented in 1 hour) that teaches students how to use content knowledge and critical thinking skills to write high-quality midterm answers. It sounds somewhat similar to your proposed exercise, so perhaps we could talk about similarities. It might be nice not to reinvent the wheel, and to assess the effectiveness of this exercise in more than one specific educational context. edited 16:28, 17 Jul 2009
Posted 16:24, 17 Jul 2009
Your research question has evolved quite nicely since I first spoke to you about this on day 1. Design appears to be sound - I particular like your insight about data on narrowing the gap between lo and hi risk students. Unfortunately, not grading the prequiz may skew your comparison rigor.
Posted 16:27, 17 Jul 2009
so by low stress, do you mean that the assignments are not graded? If so, I am not so sure that your students will take the process seriously. I tried using non-graded assignments in the past and they didn't seem to work until I started giving them credit for correct answers. I guess you can try it without grading the assignments to see what happens. Maybe you could ask them how seriously they participated in the non-graded quizzes. And whether they changed their perspective during the course of the semester.
Posted 16:27, 17 Jul 2009
-Will you be allowed to use that old data from previous years (check with IRB)? Your study depends on that.
-The exams that you are repeating should also be primarily short answer if that's the kind of practice you're giving them. Make sure you describe (when putting this together) that the practice questions also have low level questions that are more like m.c. question on the exam.
-peer grading of the papers in that 2 minute time frame
Posted 16:28, 17 Jul 2009
Even if you can't get IRB approval to get the data you'll need to classify students as high or low risk for this year, I think this is really interesting and you should go for it in the long run.

Instead of you explaining the right answer, can you ask one of them to explain it? This would be after they have checked with their neighbors.

Can you go back to your old exams and only grab the essay question grade for your comparison?
Posted 16:31, 17 Jul 2009
It does seem that we have a similar student population and are trying to address the same problems. We should chat more.

Do you give a study guide? I do give my students learning objectives for each chapter that serves as a study guide. I use Bloom's taxonomy in this study guide.

Your study with the quizzes and group discussion is a modified version of think-pair-share.
Posted 16:32, 17 Jul 2009
practical point- might take much more time that just 10 minutes- consider MC for the lower level?
Posted 16:32, 17 Jul 2009
I think this may take more time than you thought and I wonder whether you can afford this over the contents to be covered. Wow! three mid terms? Bless you, lady!
Posted 16:42, 17 Jul 2009
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