Writing and Exam Corrections Improve Student Learning

Return to search results | New search

Title of Abstract: Writing and Exam Corrections Improve Student Learning

Name of Author: Thomas Eddinger
Author Company or Institution: Marquette University
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum
Approaches: Mixed Approach
Keywords: STEM courses Exam corrections Student learning Undergraduates Active learning Retention rates Peer-reviewed writing (CPR)

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Anita L. Manogaran, Marquette University Michelle Mynelie, Marquette University Martin St. Maurice, Marquette University

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: In large enrollment classes, there is concern whether the wide variety of students retain information that they have learned. In recent years, many instructors have begun to integrate alternative methods such as classroom response systems in hopes to increase student learning. Here, we have assessed how certain ‘interventions’ such as peer-reviewed writing assignments, and exam corrections improve student learning.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: Taking advantage of our three-section introductory biology course, we designed an experimental study to test the possible benefits of these approaches using control and experimental variables across and between sections. - Total enrollment: 677 - Three sections (Noted as Section A, Section B, and Section C) - Each section taught by a different instructor - 87% freshman - 92% of students need the course for their major

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Writing assignments vs. active learning exercises. Three topics were covered in the course of the semester during lecture in all three sections. In addition, one section was assigned a writing activity through Calibrated Peer Review (CPR), which includes peer review and post assessment of their own work. The other section was exposed to an active learning exercise that included small group analysis and answering clicker questions. Table 1 indicates how different topics were covered in the three different sections throughout the semester, with ‘Lecture only’ being the control group. An online assessment was administered two weeks after the activity and questions on a cumulative final were used to assess short term and long term information retention, respectively. Written exam corrections vs. small group discussion activities. Following the first three exams, individual sections were assigned one of three activities: 1) submit written feedback on why they answered questions incorrectly and provide an explanation of the correct answer (written corrections), 2) participate in a small group discussion to review the top ten most difficult questions followed by a clicker quiz, or 3) no intervention control group. Students participated in an assessment two weeks after the exam

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Writing Assignments. Students exposed to written assignments performed better in short and long-term assessments, while students participating in active learning exercises only showed short-term gains. Increased time on task and working with material at a higher cognitive level would likely explain the increased performance of these students participating in written assignments. Exam Corrections. Students participating in written exam corrections and small group discussion performed better on post-exam analysis. Written corrections appear to have the most effective intervention because it is specifically tailored to the students misunderstanding of concepts and provides an opportunity to remedy their misconceptions. Retention rates. Analysis of historical data (data not shown) indicates that the number of student withdrawals has decreased by over 40% since the incorporation of these interventions in the General Biology course.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Designing and carrying out properly controlled studies in actual classroom settings is a challenge.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: We have communicated our efforts nationally, with a presentation at the Biology Leadership Conference 2013. March 15-17, 2013. Tucson, Arizona and this work is currently being considered for publication in CBE - Life Sciences Education.

Acknowledgements: This work was supported by the Way-Klingler College of Arts and Sciences 2011 Way-Klingler Teaching Enhancement Award granted to TE, MM, and MStM. We would also like to acknowledge the support of A. Riley and L. MacBride in Institutional Research with data access, handling and analysis.