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Increased course structure improves performance in introductory biology.

Freeman S, Haak D, Wenderoth MP - CBE Life Sci Educ (2011)

Bottom Line: We tested the hypothesis that highly structured course designs, which implement reading quizzes and/or extensive in-class active-learning activities and weekly practice exams, can lower failure rates in an introductory biology course for majors, compared with low-structure course designs that are based on lecturing and a few high-risk assessments.We controlled for 1) instructor effects by analyzing data from quarters when the same instructor taught the course, 2) exam equivalence with new assessments called the Weighted Bloom's Index and Predicted Exam Score, and 3) student equivalence using a regression-based Predicted Grade.We also tested the hypothesis that points from reading quizzes, clicker questions, and other "practice" assessments in highly structured courses inflate grades and confound comparisons with low-structure course designs.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. srf991@u.washington.edu

ABSTRACT
We tested the hypothesis that highly structured course designs, which implement reading quizzes and/or extensive in-class active-learning activities and weekly practice exams, can lower failure rates in an introductory biology course for majors, compared with low-structure course designs that are based on lecturing and a few high-risk assessments. We controlled for 1) instructor effects by analyzing data from quarters when the same instructor taught the course, 2) exam equivalence with new assessments called the Weighted Bloom's Index and Predicted Exam Score, and 3) student equivalence using a regression-based Predicted Grade. We also tested the hypothesis that points from reading quizzes, clicker questions, and other "practice" assessments in highly structured courses inflate grades and confound comparisons with low-structure course designs. We found no evidence that points from active-learning exercises inflate grades or reduce the impact of exams on final grades. When we controlled for variation in student ability, failure rates were lower in a moderately structured course design and were dramatically lower in a highly structured course design. This result supports the hypothesis that active-learning exercises can make students more skilled learners and help bridge the gap between poorly prepared students and their better-prepared peers.

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The Weighted Bloom's Index “Scale.” The Weighted Bloom's Index can be interpreted by comparing indices from actual exams to the values shown here, which are expected if all exam questions were at a certain level in Bloom's taxonomy of learning. Levels 1 and 2 in Bloom's taxonomy are considered lower-order cognitive skills; Levels 3–6 are considered higher-order cognitive skills.
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Figure 1: The Weighted Bloom's Index “Scale.” The Weighted Bloom's Index can be interpreted by comparing indices from actual exams to the values shown here, which are expected if all exam questions were at a certain level in Bloom's taxonomy of learning. Levels 1 and 2 in Bloom's taxonomy are considered lower-order cognitive skills; Levels 3–6 are considered higher-order cognitive skills.

Mentions: Bloom's taxonomy of learning (Bloom et al., 1956; Krathwohl, 2002) identifies six levels of understanding on any topic. Bloom's framework has been applied in an array of contexts in undergraduate biology education (Crowe et al., 2008), including characterizing exams (Zheng et al., 2008). We used the six levels to create a Weighted Bloom's Index, which summarizes the average Bloom's level of exam questions weighted by the points possible: where n is the number of questions, P is points/question, B = Bloom's rank (1–6) for that question, T is total points possible, and 6 is the maximum Bloom's score. To help interpret the index, note that Level 1 and 2 questions test lower-order cognitive skills, Level 3–6 questions assess higher-order cognitive skills (Bloom et al., 1956; Krathwohl et al., 2002) and specific Weighted Bloom's Index values (Figure 1) conform to each Bloom's level, as follows:Figure 1.


Increased course structure improves performance in introductory biology.

Freeman S, Haak D, Wenderoth MP - CBE Life Sci Educ (2011)

The Weighted Bloom's Index “Scale.” The Weighted Bloom's Index can be interpreted by comparing indices from actual exams to the values shown here, which are expected if all exam questions were at a certain level in Bloom's taxonomy of learning. Levels 1 and 2 in Bloom's taxonomy are considered lower-order cognitive skills; Levels 3–6 are considered higher-order cognitive skills.
© Copyright Policy - creative-commons
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3105924&req=5

Figure 1: The Weighted Bloom's Index “Scale.” The Weighted Bloom's Index can be interpreted by comparing indices from actual exams to the values shown here, which are expected if all exam questions were at a certain level in Bloom's taxonomy of learning. Levels 1 and 2 in Bloom's taxonomy are considered lower-order cognitive skills; Levels 3–6 are considered higher-order cognitive skills.
Mentions: Bloom's taxonomy of learning (Bloom et al., 1956; Krathwohl, 2002) identifies six levels of understanding on any topic. Bloom's framework has been applied in an array of contexts in undergraduate biology education (Crowe et al., 2008), including characterizing exams (Zheng et al., 2008). We used the six levels to create a Weighted Bloom's Index, which summarizes the average Bloom's level of exam questions weighted by the points possible: where n is the number of questions, P is points/question, B = Bloom's rank (1–6) for that question, T is total points possible, and 6 is the maximum Bloom's score. To help interpret the index, note that Level 1 and 2 questions test lower-order cognitive skills, Level 3–6 questions assess higher-order cognitive skills (Bloom et al., 1956; Krathwohl et al., 2002) and specific Weighted Bloom's Index values (Figure 1) conform to each Bloom's level, as follows:Figure 1.

Bottom Line: We tested the hypothesis that highly structured course designs, which implement reading quizzes and/or extensive in-class active-learning activities and weekly practice exams, can lower failure rates in an introductory biology course for majors, compared with low-structure course designs that are based on lecturing and a few high-risk assessments.We controlled for 1) instructor effects by analyzing data from quarters when the same instructor taught the course, 2) exam equivalence with new assessments called the Weighted Bloom's Index and Predicted Exam Score, and 3) student equivalence using a regression-based Predicted Grade.We also tested the hypothesis that points from reading quizzes, clicker questions, and other "practice" assessments in highly structured courses inflate grades and confound comparisons with low-structure course designs.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. srf991@u.washington.edu

ABSTRACT
We tested the hypothesis that highly structured course designs, which implement reading quizzes and/or extensive in-class active-learning activities and weekly practice exams, can lower failure rates in an introductory biology course for majors, compared with low-structure course designs that are based on lecturing and a few high-risk assessments. We controlled for 1) instructor effects by analyzing data from quarters when the same instructor taught the course, 2) exam equivalence with new assessments called the Weighted Bloom's Index and Predicted Exam Score, and 3) student equivalence using a regression-based Predicted Grade. We also tested the hypothesis that points from reading quizzes, clicker questions, and other "practice" assessments in highly structured courses inflate grades and confound comparisons with low-structure course designs. We found no evidence that points from active-learning exercises inflate grades or reduce the impact of exams on final grades. When we controlled for variation in student ability, failure rates were lower in a moderately structured course design and were dramatically lower in a highly structured course design. This result supports the hypothesis that active-learning exercises can make students more skilled learners and help bridge the gap between poorly prepared students and their better-prepared peers.

Show MeSH