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2018 Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Symposium


Evaluating Attitude over the Course of Sophomore Organic Chemistry

Erin Whitteck

Many nonmajors regard organic chemistry in a negative light, and view the course as their first major hurdle on their path to medical school. Although instructors are aware that most students enter their classroom with a negative attitude, there are few tools that are specifically designed to affect student attitudes. The ASCI V2 survey was developed by Jennifer Lewis and colleagues in order to quickly assess student attitudes. This survey has been validated, and shown to be reliable in several different contexts. The creators of the ASCI (V2) survey described that one potential application of their survey was to evaluate curricular interventions. In the Fall of 2017 at Saint Louis University we administered the ASCI (V2) survey to a large lecture sophomore organic chemistry class at the beginning, and end of the semester to assess changes in student attitudes. We also administered a qualitative survey at the end of the semester to assess which aspects of the course had the most positive and negative impacts on student attitudes. It was found that personnel, either in the form of a tutor, SI leader, or instructor had the most positive impact on student attitude. Whereas, performance on assessment had the greatest negative impact on attitude. In the future, we intend to scaffold post-exam interventions into the course in the hopes of positively impacting student attitudes about assessment and organic chemistry.

Assessing experiential learning: On the path to intercultural transformation

Kelly Lovejoy, Angela Blash

Transformation is “a critical dimension of learning in adulthood that enables us to recognize, reassess and modify the structures of assumptions and expectations that frame our tacit points of view and influence our thinking, beliefs, attitudes, and actions” (Mezirow, 2009:18). Intercultural transformation occurs when this transformative process is the result of contact with a new language or culture. Recent trends in research on intercultural transformation reveal a focus on study abroad or international education as key elements in transformation (Colvin & Volet, 2014; Czerwionka, Artamonova & Barbosa, 2015). However, there is a gap in the research regarding intercultural transformation that may occur in domestic settings, through cultural experiences as a part of a language learning process.

In "Assessing experiential learning: On the path to intercultural transformation," we examine intercultural transformation (ICT) among first and second semester Spanish students at Saint Louis University. The students generated written reflections about the cultural experiences in which they participated as a requirement of their class. In our presentation we will address the following questions:

1) How many students reported a transformative experience?

2) What types of cultural experiences led to intercultural transformation as reported by the students?

3) Do types of experiences that generate transformation vary by course level?

In our project, we applied a coding scheme, developed by Colvin and Volet, who operationalized intercultural transformation (2014:79). The student reflections were separated into tokens that were later assessed for their transformative value. These tokens were coded as transformative (evidence of a change in perspective regarding another culture or one’s own culture), informative (evidence that the student gained knowledge), or unrelated to transformation (evidence of a positive outcome in which the student’s perspective did not change and no learning occurred). This work in progress has thus far revealed that the student intercultural experiences were largely positive and their reflections indicated that most gained cultural knowledge. Many also reported a transformation of worldview as a result of engaging with the target language and culture.

In our presentation we will describe our preliminary quantitative analysis of the patterns that emerged, including a review of transformative tokens, types of experiences that led to transformation, and significant differences between course levels. This research is the initial phase of a broader project that will help us better understand experiential learning in support of intercultural competence and language development. In particular, we plan to explore transformation by looking at the individual student level to identify patterns of experience that lead to transformation.

Works Cited

Colvin, C. & Volet, S. (2014). Scrutinizing local students' accounts of positive intercultural interactions: A multidimensional analysis. International Journal of International Relations 42, 77-92.

Czerwionka, L., Artamonova, T., & Barbosa, M. (2015). Intercultural knowledge development: Evidence from student interviews during short-term study abroad. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 49, 80-99.

Mezirow, J. (2009). Transformative Learning Theory. In J. Mezirow & E.W. Taylor (Eds.), Transformative Learning in Practice (18-31). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 

A Semi-flipped Statistics Course Tailored to the Health Related Majors

Kim Druschel

A Partially flipped Introductory Statistics Course tailored to the Health Related Disciplines-Initial Stages

This study is designed to answer three questions:

1) Do small, almost daily, student-discipline driven projects in a statistics course aid in understanding and retention of the material.

2) What are students’ perceptions of such a course structure.

3) Can this endeavor be carried out successfully by adjuncts and teaching assistants.

In the fall of 2017 the author was asked to review the delivery of freshman/sophomore level statistics course, STAT 1100, a course almost solely taught by adjuncts and Graduate Teaching Assistants and rarely by professors. To that end she designed and taught the course as she thought might be appropriate for the students in the course, who are primarily nursing and physical therapy majors, with most of the rest primarily in other health sciences. The course was structured with an overview lecture in the first half and group work in the second portion. This group work was done in teams of four or five where the students were from one or two particular majors. Their work involved a mixture of giving examples of the statistical concepts as they applied to their majors, finding and analyzing the statistics in articles related to their disciplines, and extrapolating from data related to their discipline in statistical problems.

Students’ work was impressive, they seemed pleased with the approach, and gained significant confidence in their quantitative reasoning skills. The author collected data on students’ perceptions of the value, learning style fit, and interest of the in-class group work . The results were quite positive. Part of the review of the course delivery involved much overdue visits to our South Campus client departments in Spring 2018.There were valuable conversations at these meetings and the authors plans to continue them. The data from student polls and student work was shared. It was agreed that it was desirable to try to continue this in-context group work approach in delivery and also to assess students’ statistical knowledge retention in subsequent discipline specific courses that relied on STAT 1100.

The course has been set up this semester with a course template for adjuncts and GTA’s to follow. This includes online homework, pre-class reading quizzes, and a series of small in-context projects. This fall there are four sections with two lecturers agreeing to follow the plan, one somewhat following, and one outlier. Those teaching according to plan report that it is going well and students are liking the course. Efforts are underway to be able to collect end-of-semester and subsequent course data. Additionally, a series of projects on the medicare hospital data is being developed for the course. Further effort is needed to ensure more cooperation and communication and determine which adjuncts and TA’s are interested and willing to follow this approach. 

Student Perspectives of Social Justice Media in the Classroom

Dr. Dannielle Joy Davis, Sarah Alajaji, Sarah Alajaji, Norah Alhejji, Katherine Booher, Annie Friedrich, Kelly G Herbolich, Andrew Jones, Erna Kadic, Robyn L. Lewis, Dierre Littleton, Amanda Wiesner-Grof, Hassan Alzahrani, Ahmed Alfalah, Mohammad Binsaeed, Boyd Copeland

As an exercise to learn about application of critical theory in qualitative research, students of a graduate level Qualitative Research class reflected upon the controversial 2018 Nike commercial featuring Colin Kaepernick. This collective auto-ethnography features the following research question: How does the Colin Kaepernick Nike commercial influence ways in which students perceive their own identities? The work focuses upon the journaling of graduate students as it pertains to the themes of race, gender, religion, ability, and culture within the commercial. A social constructivist framework guides the analysis of journal data and subsequent discussion of the utility of anti-oppressive, justice oriented media within classroom settings at the graduate level. 

Graduate Students’ Resilience through Participation in an Interprofessional Mentoring Program

Mitzi Brammer

This study investigates an interprofessional mentoring series that is specifically designed to address student resilience in a communication sciences and disorders graduate program. The aim of the study is to determine whether students’ perceived measures of resilience change after participating in the nine-month (academic year) student mentoring program. Also, given the research reviewed, it is hypothesized that there will be a difference in graduate students’ resilience scores who were alumni of the institution compared to their cohort colleagues who matriculated at a different undergraduate institution as well as first generation students vs. non-first generation students. By gathering pre- and post-data via a resilience measure (Connor & Davidson, 2003) as well as utilizing comparative statistics, this researcher intends to shed new light on factors that impact student resilience, and ultimately student achievement, at the graduate level of higher education, particularly in the field of communication sciences and disorders.

An analysis of student-generated conceptual models in introductory biology

Konnor Brennan

Biologists routinely interpret, generate, and evaluate visuals and models to communicate their findings and understanding of how living systems work. To align education with this practice, instructors are being encouraged to promote visual literacy and modeling competencies in STEM students, by incorporating model-based reasoning into their curricula. In the context of an introductory biology course for majors where instructors incorporate frequent modeling activities, we aim to investigate: 1) whether students use provided models as sources of evidence to generate claims backed by reasoning and 2) to what extent student-generated models are consistent with the understandings students demonstrate in other, related, questions on exams.

The data collected for this analysis were exams from two sections of a large enrollment introductory biology class for STEM and pre-health students (n=240) where modeling is an overt practice and a learning outcome of the course. Three unit exams and one, cumulative, final exam contained a variety of model-based questions, essentially of two kinds: (a) questions that provided a model and asked students to interpret it, and, (b) questions that required students to generate a model. Both question types were either scaffolded or followed by additional short-answer question items intended, respectively, to guide students’ model development or to further probe their understanding of a provided model. Consistent with our hypothesis that student-generated models are accurate representations of their understanding, we expected to find little to no discrepancy between their models and other answers on exams. We developed and used rubrics to code related sets of models and short answers for correctness and internal consistency.

Preliminary analysis indicates distinct patterns in students’ model-based reasoning. When asked to reason with a provided model (a diagram of DNA replication), 82% of students correctly identified the function of the model, but only 58% explicitly mentioned model elements as evidence in support of their claim. Interestingly, 18% of students based their reasoning on evidence that was not present in the model. One possible reason for this is that students may not be using the model as a source of evidence, rather they use facts they have memorized and try to fit these retrospectively onto a given model.

When asked to generate a model of how gene expression leads to a phenotype, students produced models that were largely consistent with what they had answered in scaffolding questions leading up to model construction. While 78% of the students, for example, developed models showing as an outcome the phenotype they had identified in writing before drawing the model, we found that 22% of student models revealed inconsistencies with their claims. We hypothesize that this kind of discrepancies may be due to students demonstrating procedural display when generating models, and failing to connect conceptually their drawings to their understanding. 

Learning strategies, attitudes, and improvement in introductory biology exam grades

Amanda Sebasta

Self-regulated learning (SRL)—defined as metacognitive, motivational, and behavioral engagement in one’s own learning—characterizes successful, “expert” learners. Specifically, self-regulated learners plan, monitor, and evaluate how they learn; possess adaptive motivational beliefs of confidence in their learning abilities and responsibility for their learning outcomes; and adopt study strategies that are context-appropriate. Previous work has established that students who self-regulate their learning also have high academic achievement. However, little work has investigated if SRL attributes characterize students who improve their academic performance in a course over a semester, despite poor outcomes on early exams. Therefore, we examined if attitudes towards learning and use of SRL strategies differed between students who improved versus did not improve in their exam performance over time in a large-enrollment, active-learning introductory biology course for majors. We administered a set of surveys to students in three course sections (n = 410). A week before the first exam, students reported their learning attitudes in a suite of validated survey instruments (grit, perceived academic control, self-efficacy, need for cognition, and critical thinking/elaboration disposition). After receiving each of their first two graded exams, students were asked to report how frequently they used each of 17 SRL strategies when studying for the exams.

We identified pre-existing differences in students’ attitudes and use of strategies, which corresponded to differences in Exam 1 performance. Specifically, students with higher Exam 1 grades—compared to their peers with lower grades—reported higher scores for all learning attitudes and higher use of six SRL strategies (self-evaluation, monitoring understanding, seeking instructor assistance, reviewing exams, reviewing the textbook/screencasts, and reviewing graded work). We also found that students’ Exam 1 grade significantly predicted the average grade of their Exams 2, 3, and 4, which is consistent with previous work showing that early exam grades predict overall course performance. Using standardized exam scores, we identified if students were below the exam mean by at least one standard deviation (Group 1), within one standard deviation below the mean (Group 2), within one standard deviation above the mean (Group 3), or above the mean by at least one standard deviation (Group 4). Because both attitudes and strategies were associated with initial exam performance, we sorted students based on their standardized Exam 1 grade and compared those who moved up at least one group (improved) versus those who remained in the same group or moved down at least one group (did not improve) for Exams 2/3/4. We found that students who improved reported greater use of certain strategies; some strategies were common between students who improved in two different groups (e.g., goal-setting and planning), but some strategies were unique to a given group (e.g., monitoring understanding). Furthermore, students who improved from Group 3 also reported higher grit and self-efficacy than those who did not improve.

Altogether, knowing which learning attitudes and SRL strategies differentiate students who improve their performance over time will allow instructors to coach students on adopting and developing these attributes, in order to support their academic achievement in introductory biology.