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How Undergraduate Science Students Use Learning Objectives to Study

    Authors: Bethany Osueke1,#, Birook Mekonnen1,#, Julie Dangremond Stanton1,*
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Cellular Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, 30602
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 20 October 2017 Accepted 16 April 2018 Published 29 June 2018
    • ©2018 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Supplemental materials available at http://asmscience.org/jmbe
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Cellular Biology, 724 Biological Sciences Building, Athens, Georgia 30602-2607. Phone: 706-542-2978. Fax: 706-542-4271. E-mail: stantonj@uga.edu.
    • # denotes co-first authors
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. June 2018 vol. 19 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1510
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    Abstract:

    Learning objectives communicate the knowledge and skills that instructors intend for students to acquire in a course. Student performance can be enhanced when learning objectives align with instruction and assessment. We understand how instructors should use learning objectives, but we know less about how students should use them. We investigated students’ use and perceptions of learning objectives in an undergraduate science course at a public research university. In this exploratory study, students ( = 185) completed two open-ended assignments regarding learning objectives and we analyzed the content of their answers. We found that students used learning objectives in ways that reflected the recommendations of past and present instructors, suggesting that students are receptive to instruction on how to use learning objectives. Students generally found learning objectives to be useful because the objectives helped them to narrow their focus and organize their studying, suggesting that students may need additional help from instructors in order to self-direct their learning. Students who chose not to use learning objectives often found other resources, such as case studies covered in class, to be more helpful for their learning. Some of these students recognized that the concepts included in case studies and learning objectives overlapped, pointing to a benefit of alignment between instructional activities and learning objectives. These qualitative results provide the data necessary for designing a quantitative instrument to test the extent to which students’ use of learning objectives affects their performance.

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2018-06-29
2018-07-18

Abstract:

Learning objectives communicate the knowledge and skills that instructors intend for students to acquire in a course. Student performance can be enhanced when learning objectives align with instruction and assessment. We understand how instructors should use learning objectives, but we know less about how students should use them. We investigated students’ use and perceptions of learning objectives in an undergraduate science course at a public research university. In this exploratory study, students ( = 185) completed two open-ended assignments regarding learning objectives and we analyzed the content of their answers. We found that students used learning objectives in ways that reflected the recommendations of past and present instructors, suggesting that students are receptive to instruction on how to use learning objectives. Students generally found learning objectives to be useful because the objectives helped them to narrow their focus and organize their studying, suggesting that students may need additional help from instructors in order to self-direct their learning. Students who chose not to use learning objectives often found other resources, such as case studies covered in class, to be more helpful for their learning. Some of these students recognized that the concepts included in case studies and learning objectives overlapped, pointing to a benefit of alignment between instructional activities and learning objectives. These qualitative results provide the data necessary for designing a quantitative instrument to test the extent to which students’ use of learning objectives affects their performance.

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FIGURE 1

Alignment of course components. Students can benefit when the learning objectives, instructional activities, and assessments in their courses align. The examples of each component given here are from an introductory biochemistry course.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. June 2018 vol. 19 no. 2 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i2.1510
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