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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.

Show MeSH
Failure rates controlled for Predicted Grade, as a function of course structure. In this study, low-, medium-, and high-structure courses rely primarily on Socratic lecturing, some active learning and formative assessment, and extensive active learning (no lecturing) and formative assessment, respectively. The difference between the proportion of students predicted to fail and the actual proportion failing decreases with increasing structure (GLMM, binomial error n = 2267, *p = 0.06, **p = 0.0004).
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Figure 3: Failure rates controlled for Predicted Grade, as a function of course structure. In this study, low-, medium-, and high-structure courses rely primarily on Socratic lecturing, some active learning and formative assessment, and extensive active learning (no lecturing) and formative assessment, respectively. The difference between the proportion of students predicted to fail and the actual proportion failing decreases with increasing structure (GLMM, binomial error n = 2267, *p = 0.06, **p = 0.0004).

Mentions: Moderate levels of course structure had a marginal effect on failure rate (Figure 3; p = 0.06), whereas high levels of course structure had a statistically significant impact on reducing failure rates independent of changes in student characteristics (Figure 3; p = 0.00004).


Increased course structure improves performance in introductory biology.

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

Failure rates controlled for Predicted Grade, as a function of course structure. In this study, low-, medium-, and high-structure courses rely primarily on Socratic lecturing, some active learning and formative assessment, and extensive active learning (no lecturing) and formative assessment, respectively. The difference between the proportion of students predicted to fail and the actual proportion failing decreases with increasing structure (GLMM, binomial error n = 2267, *p = 0.06, **p = 0.0004).
© Copyright Policy - creative-commons
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

Figure 3: Failure rates controlled for Predicted Grade, as a function of course structure. In this study, low-, medium-, and high-structure courses rely primarily on Socratic lecturing, some active learning and formative assessment, and extensive active learning (no lecturing) and formative assessment, respectively. The difference between the proportion of students predicted to fail and the actual proportion failing decreases with increasing structure (GLMM, binomial error n = 2267, *p = 0.06, **p = 0.0004).
Mentions: Moderate levels of course structure had a marginal effect on failure rate (Figure 3; p = 0.06), whereas high levels of course structure had a statistically significant impact on reducing failure rates independent of changes in student characteristics (Figure 3; p = 0.00004).

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