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Alternative Assessment Strategy and Its Impact on Student Comprehension in an Undergraduate Microbiology Course

    Authors: BARRY J. MARGULIES1, CYNTHIA A. GHENT1,*
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, Towson University, Towson, Maryland 21252
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Biological Sciences, Towson University, 8000 York Road, Towson, MD 21252. Phone: (410) 704-5918. Fax: (410) 704-2405. E-mail: cghent@towson.edu.
    • Copyright © 2005, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2005 vol. 6 no. 1 3-7. doi:10.1128/154288105X14285806609214
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    Abstract:

    Medical Microbiology is a content-intensive course that requires a large time commitment from the students. Students are typically biology or prenursing majors, including students headed for professional schools, such as medical school and pharmacy school. This group is somewhat diverse in terms of background science coursework, so it can be difficult to teach in a way that benefits all the students. Numerous changes have been implemented in our microbiology curriculum to address the different abilities of our students by altering assessment and teaching strategies. It was hypothesized that changing the assessment strategy from the traditional scheme of two or three exams and one final to a new model of seven or eight shorter exams would have a positive impact on student comprehension and retention. The quantity of material taught or expected of the students to learn did not change, but there was definitely an impact on them. Although 30.0% of students routinely did not pass microbiology in previous semesters, the new method of assessment resulted in only 9.63% not completing the semester successfully, as determined by earning a grade of C or better. There is some evidence from conversations and interviews with students that indicates a positive impact of this methodology on student attitude. Implementation of these changes in other courses and their current effectiveness will be examined in the future, with an eye towards more broadly applicable successful teaching techniques in the sciences, especially for nonmajors.

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References & Citations

1. American Association for the Advancement of Science1990Science for all AmericansOxford University PressNew York
2. Heady JE2000Assessment - a way of thinking about learning now and in the futureJ Coll Sci Teaching29415421
3. Leonard WH2000How do college students best learn science?J Coll Sci Teaching29385388
4. National Science Education Standards1996National science education standardsNational Academy PressWashington, D.C
5. Peppler MS2003Microbe cards: medical microbiology and infectious diseases study cardsASM PressWashington, D.C.
6. Strauss A, Corbin J1998Basics of qualitative research: techniques and procedures for developing grounded theorySage PublicationsThousand Oaks, Calif
7. Suskie L2000Fair assessment practices: giving students equitable opportunities to demonstrate learningAAHE Bull529710
8. Thomson K, Falchikov N1998Full on until the sun comes out: the effects of assessment on student approaches to studyingAssessment Evaluation Higher Educ2337939010.1080/0260293980230405 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0260293980230405
9. Walvoord BE, Anderson VJ1998Effective grading: a tool for learning and assessmentJossey-Bass PublishersSan Francisco
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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/154288105X14285806609214
2005-05-01
2017-09-21

Abstract:

Medical Microbiology is a content-intensive course that requires a large time commitment from the students. Students are typically biology or prenursing majors, including students headed for professional schools, such as medical school and pharmacy school. This group is somewhat diverse in terms of background science coursework, so it can be difficult to teach in a way that benefits all the students. Numerous changes have been implemented in our microbiology curriculum to address the different abilities of our students by altering assessment and teaching strategies. It was hypothesized that changing the assessment strategy from the traditional scheme of two or three exams and one final to a new model of seven or eight shorter exams would have a positive impact on student comprehension and retention. The quantity of material taught or expected of the students to learn did not change, but there was definitely an impact on them. Although 30.0% of students routinely did not pass microbiology in previous semesters, the new method of assessment resulted in only 9.63% not completing the semester successfully, as determined by earning a grade of C or better. There is some evidence from conversations and interviews with students that indicates a positive impact of this methodology on student attitude. Implementation of these changes in other courses and their current effectiveness will be examined in the future, with an eye towards more broadly applicable successful teaching techniques in the sciences, especially for nonmajors.

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FIG. 1.

Comments from student interviews. Interviews took place during a pilot semester with the new methodology. The comments, separated by headings, illustrate the impact on student attitude. There were no negative comments from the entire transcript of the two 30-minute interviews. This may be an artifact of the low number of interviews conducted.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. May 2005 vol. 6 no. 1 3-7. doi:10.1128/154288105X14285806609214
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