- Gnagy, Susanne Ruth
- Recent national reports have highlighted the importance of recruiting and retaining more college students from diverse backgrounds in the sciences. To this end, science educators have been tasked to critically evaluate their teaching methods in order to design curricula that are both effective and engaging for all students. This study used an action research design to (1) assess student learning from a role-play activity; (2) use the results of this assessment to revise the activity; and (3) evaluate the effectiveness of the revised curriculum. The activity was designed to teach students about membrane transport, and a pre-test, post-test, retention test instrument was used to assess student understanding of key concepts. In addition, student learning from the activity, and retention of these concepts over time, were compared to demographic and general academic characteristics to determine whether the activity was equally effective for all students. Assessment of student learning from the activity in the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 semesters (cohort 1) revealed that participation in the activity led to significant learning gains on the day of the activity (pre-test to post-test), and that after ten weeks, these learning gains were largely retained (pre-test to retention test). However, close evaluation of the assessment results revealed that students were not learning and retaining all concepts equally. In particular, students struggled to understand co-transport, and two common student misconceptions were identified. The activity was revised to address these difficulties, and to incorporate student suggestions from an open-ended survey question. The revised protocol was implemented in the Fall 2012 semester (cohort 2). Comparisons of student learning between cohorts revealed that the activity revisions resulted in non-significant improvements in overall student scores on the post- and retention tests, and significantly improved understanding of co-transport on the retention test. Evaluation of the relationships between student learning and retention over time, and student demographic and academic characteristics, revealed that overall, this activity is an effective learning exercise for many different types of students. However, Caucasian and underrepresented minority (URM) students outperformed Asian students on the post-test, though not the retention test, indicating that this activity may be a less effective learning tool in the short term for the Asian students. In addition, there were small but significant correlations between students’ performance in lecture and students’ performance on the post- and retention tests. This study demonstrates that curriculum assessment can be an effective way to evaluate a learning activity; it can be used to identify areas of student difficulty, and targeted revisions may then lead to improved learning in future iterations. Moreover, identifying factors that may influence student learning outcomes can be a way to design future curricula that are more effective for all students.
- Resource Type:
- Campus Tesim:
- Biological Sciences (Ecology, Evolution and Conservation)