Interventions Targeting Student Success in Freshman Biology

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Title of Abstract: Interventions Targeting Student Success in Freshman Biology

Name of Author: Andrew Lloyd
Author Company or Institution: Delaware State University
Author Title: Professor, Biology
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: General Biology
Course Levels: Introductory Course(s)
Approaches: Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.)
Keywords: Peer-led team-learning clickers electronic response systems General Biology

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Rashida Z. Davis, Delaware State University Cynthia van Golen, Delaware State University

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The Department of Biological Sciences at Delaware State University has been faced with consistently low passing rates in its first year General Biology survey courses for a number of years. Passing rates (defined as the percentage of students achieving a course grade of C or higher) have fluctuated around an average of 45 percent, which is unacceptably low. To address this challenge, the department has developed a multi-pronged approach. Starting two years ago, the Vision and Change student learning objectives have been adopted as the departmental student learning objectives and course objectives have been modified to smoothly integrate with them. We also introduced new student-centered learning course elements into the General Biology courses.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: . Electronic response systems have been required for all students in the first-year General Biology courses. These have been used to integrate question and response into traditionally-delivered lectures and provide instantaneous feedback to the instructor. Additionally, an NIH RISE grant provided funding to establish a two-hour peer-led team-learning workshop for each section of the course. This workshop, added to the three 50 minute lectures, one three-hour lab section and a one-hour recitation brought weekly class time up to nearly nine hours. During workshop, students worked in small groups on problem sets that emphasized application of course material in situations that required critical thinking.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: We compared the passing rates (percent of students with grades of A, B or C) in General Biology I and II from the academic year 2010 - 11 (prior to intervention) with passing rates in the academic years 2011 - 12 and 2012 - 13 (after intervention). We also looked at correlations between total points earned on course exams with total points earned in the intervention elements (PLTL workshops and lecture quizzes delivered through electronic response systems).

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: After four semesters of implementation, results have been less than anticipated. In the General Biology II course, passing rates have increased marginally (from 51% in the fall of 2010 to 57% in the fall of 2011 and ‘12) while the passing rates in General Biology I have also increased by a similar margin (39% in the spring of 2011 to 47% in the spring of 2013). Analysis of correlations between course elements and exam scores indicates no consistent correlation between points earned in the PLTL workshop and success on midterm or final exams (R2 ranging from 0.14 and 0.29 depending on the course and semester). A smaller variation was seen in correlations between ‘clicker’ quizzes and exam scores (R2 ranging from 0.22 and 0.24) yet this indicates that success in quizzes that used a personal response system did not correlate with student success in exams. Specifically, students who did will in PLTL workshop activities and lecture ‘clicker’ quizzes did not necessarily do well on the lecture exams, though the linkage was better between quizzes and exams than between workshops and exams.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: . In response, we are developing new versions of the two first-year courses that will focus more closely on a limited set of core concepts aligned to the Vision and Change standards. Additionally we will utilize an inverted classroom format to deliver lecture material outside of class and focus class time on the type of activities now being carried out in workshop. We anticipate that focusing faculty effort and attention on the group critical thinking component may have a more significant positive impact on student success. While we have seen some improvement, it has not been enough to consider the initiative to have been a complete success. We have decided to continue the evolution of the first-year Biology core courses rather than return to the previous model, which was clearly unsuccessful.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: We will present this project as part of a larger workshop on interventions targeting success in STEM at an HBCU to be held in the AAC&U conference 'Transforming STEM Education: Inquiry, Innovation, Inclusion, and Evidence' scheduled for 31 Oct. - 2 Nov. 2013.

Acknowledgements: Research reported in this abstract was supported by the National Institute Of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R25GM089669. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.