Traditional course taught on campus using Active Learning techniques. Student body is primarily comprised of biology or other science majors. There are 400 students annually, of which I teach 150. There is a required lab component. Finally, there is an additional activity / discussion section.
Students have the potential of earning 1000 points: 400 points for exams and final; 100 for MasteringBiology; 120-150 for activities; 120-150 for lab; 120-150 for attendance; and the remaining points from in-class activities, attendance, etc.
This semester I'm trying something new. I am using Active Learning in lecture which means that there is a greater expectation on students to do the readings before coming to class. MasteringBiology helps to keep the students on track. Students are doing MasteringBiology twice a week, as the homework is due every day we meet for lecture.
Each assignment is worth five points. Assignments are comprised of at least one tutorial (if available) worth one to two points depending on duration in addition to two or three Test Bank questions, worth one point. And now I'm adding End of Chapter quizzes and Activities as practice questions. I'm giving students even more opportunities to practice.
I use MasteringBiology's automatic diagnostic data on duration and difficulty, especially for the multiple choice items. Sometimes the question looks good but the duration and difficulty makes me think twice. If the difficulty and time are too low, I will consider assigning a harder question. Most of my students' scores conform to the national average.
I use the Assignment summary for each question. I will click on an item to drill down to see the students' wrong answer responses. I want to know if students are just guessing. I don't penalize them for guessing. MasteringBiology is intended to be homework, designed to help the student learn. Therefore, I don't exact a strong penalty for incorrect answers. But by using the Assignment Summary, I can tell when a student might be guessing. Interestingly, I get the most frustrated comments from students who I can see are trying to guess their way through.
I can't say I can do this every day, but I like to see how the students are doing before we meet for lecture. MasteringBiology's data gives me a quick snapshot of the things the students don't get.
Definitely, the students have a deeper understanding of the material. I include application analysis and some factual questions on all the homework assignments. My scores have gone up 2 to 3% on my first exam this term when compared to previous years. Since we had multiple variables, it is not possible to state a direct cause. Active Learning and MasteringBiology are tied together. MasteringBiology is used to reinforce the concepts discussed in our Active Learning approach.
I thought Active Learning would be a lot more work than straightforward lecturing, but it hasn't been more work, just different work. By using an Active Learning approach it makes me ask, "What are the most important things to cover because I can't hit everything." And then I structure my course around the most important topics. Active Learning has decreased my administrative tasks. I don't have as many papers to grade. Although I have fewer papers to grade because each team submits one paper, I receive those papers more frequently (every lecture). Now, I have an up-to-date reading on how my class is doing.
I've seen some changes in student performance already. Students realize the value of MasteringBiology...particularly the tutorials. MasteringBiology's tutorials make a difference of what they get out of the problem sets. It changes how I teach. If I see students struggling on a topic in MasteringBiology, I will take more time in lecture to talk about it.
I had an interesting experience last week in class. I was talking with a few students about the problems in MasteringBiology. They were telling me that the problems were impossible to finish and how frustrating it was. But, I went to the assignment summary page to see how my students did, and they had consistently scored higher than the nationwide average. I showed the students that were complaining how well they had done compared to others, and it immediately changed their attitude about the whole thing. I think it really got them on board with the idea of the homework assignments.
I feel MasteringBiology provides a very positive experience for my students. MasteringBiology is a tool that complements Active Learning very well. I was interested in Active Learning but I was terrified at first. I didn't want to lose control, but it has turned out to be a great benefit. MasteringBiology gives me insight into what students are doing outside of class. Together these two programs give me greater control. I no longer have to wait till the first test to find out what the students are thinking.
All of the professors teaching the course are also using MasteringBiology. Everyone was convinced right away to try it. They liked that MasteringBiology was kinetic. MasteringBiology is another way for students to learn by doing.