College of Science and Mathematics
California Polytechnic State University
The efforts going into the integrated classroom development were meant to provide an alternative to the traditional asynchronous lecture/lab mode of instruction. As such, it should be assessed as to its effectiveness; is it equal to, or better than, the traditional mode with regard to the total student learning experience. There are three foci of assessment to be addressed:
The students should be able to master and apply fundamental concepts of thermochemistry, atomic structure, microscopic/macroscopic properties, and reactivity as a result of these courses. Progress can be measured through standardized testing as well as graded and ungraded assessment instruments.
The skills we wish to inculcate include critical thinking, algorithmic problem solving, experiment design and analysis, writing, and information acquisition using the computer. Except for critical thinking, the skills mentioned are usually amenable to assessment in the traditional manner of testing and report writing.
Chemistry 124/5 are part of the "service" or core course offerings in our department. Our students take the classes as "support" to their major curriculum. As such, they are frequently considered as inconsequential and/or as barriers to overcome on the way to a "meaningful" degree. These attitudes directly affect the atmosphere and outcomes of the course. Therefore assessment of student attitudes towards chemistry before, during, and after the experience is essential.
In terms of attitudes, one measure is the amount of interest occurring among the engineering students who have taken the class to become teaching assistants for the course. There are usually 1-2 undergraduate TAs per course section. The TAs are former course participants, that is, engineering majors, along with some chemistry/biochemistry majors. Occasionally, we have had pre-credential candidates who wished to gain some teaching experience.
Over the past 7 years, members of the teaching team have given papers at national and international meetings on the topic of assessment. Some of the key findings so far -
The quarter begins with an online survey of student background and experiences in chemistry. High school or prep chem is a course prerequisite, so our questions focus on incoming attitudes, lab experience, and concepts covered in the previous chemistry course.
Online evaluations(surveys) at the end of each quarter consist of 29 questions that cover the student views of course content and presentation as well as various aspects of the technology. In addition there is a final free response question. The most recent Fall 2004 survey results are linked here.
It is difficult to use nationally available standardized exams to assess learning. The content of the first quarter course is very different from that taught in regular general chemistry courses. Therefore we have been writing and administering a joint final examination for the last few terms. The two sets of exams are being analyzed and the questions refined for the future. Consisting of 50 multiple choice questions, the average scores for all class sections have ranged from 28 to 37 out of 50.
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