Reducing the Achievement Gap through Course Redesign

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Title of Abstract: Reducing the Achievement Gap through Course Redesign

Name of Author: Kelly Hogan
Author Company or Institution: UNC-CHapel Hill
Author Title: Senior Lecturer
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: General Biology
Course Levels: Introductory Course(s)
Approaches: Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.)
Keywords: minority, redesign, large, faculty, development

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Kelly A. Hogan, UNC Chapel Hill Jean DeSaix, UNC Chapel Hill

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: 1. Our efforts focused first on creating student-centered learning experiences inside and outside of the classroom. By stepping away from the lecture, included many more formative assessments, some of them even graded through via technology. Our goal was that these assessments would help 'level the playing field' for under prepared students. The classroom was effectively flipped, putting the accountability for reading on the student before class. 2. Our efforts have also become about 'spreading the word' about student centered learning to faculty in the department and wider on campus (promoting a campus-wide commitment to change) and promote faculty development in this area.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: 1. To promote student centered learning in our own classes, we are using methods that bring more structure to the class with many more opportunities for formative assessment. For example, students answer Guided Reading Questions designed by the instructor to help them learn to read actively. Students then answer online homework questions (tutorials and other question types) to prepare for class. In class activities range from study skill type activities to more inquiry driven ones. The class has effectively been flipped. 2. To promote a campus wide commitment to change, we focused on campus talks at teaching and learning meetings, faculty meetings, invited workshops/panels, and one-on-one conversations/consultations. Most significantly, by formally writing up the results from the course redesign and sending it to administrators, these individuals had a clear idea about what we had achieved and could refer to it as needed. We used a data-driven approach, but also incorporated our own successes/failures and drove home the point that there was indeed a problem (achievement gap data in our own department and our own class).

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: 1. To promote student centered learning in our own class, we measured student performance, failure rates, and examined data from surveys given to students before and after the course redesign. We controlled for student ability and instructor in the analyses and specifically examined how certain student groups performed (i.e. underrepresented minorities, first generation students, etc.) 2. To promote a campus wide commitment to change, our goal was to have one-on-one conversations and give talks to faculty groups in our department and wider on campus about how students learn and incorporate our own data and experiences. Our second goal was to have faculty respond positively to our discussions but importantly, make small or large changes to their teaching because of the information we shared.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: 1. Our students: in our classes, student performance has increased, more so for Black students, failure rates have dropped overall, and students report that in the redesigned class they are more likely to: study more hours, read the book before class, feel homework is more important, and feel a greater sense of community. 2. Fellow faculty: we have consulted one-on-one and been asked to ‘peer coach’ fellow faculty. We have given a faculty meeting in the department that was well received--some faculty made small changes the very next day to their teaching. We have seen many faculty add objectives and outcomes to their syllabi because of us and many have reported their successes and failures to us. 3. Department: starting this coming year, we will have one external speaker per year come who does biology education research, we will hire two new lecturers with expertise in student-centered learning, and importantly, faculty will help evaluate candidates with a rubric designed to look a the quality of active learning being promoted during their guest lecture. We have another introductory course with about ten faculty who teach in it, that have now begun planning a more cohesive, student-centered approach to this class. 4. We have felt the most impact at the campus level. Our data was sent to adminstrators (deans, Provost, Chancellor). A task force was set up to examine how our methods could be used in other departments with large classes, money was given to STEM departments, including ours, to hire new lecturers with active-learning expertise, we collaborated on an AAU proposal (that was accepted) to bring in money to our campus to provide faculty development/course release to improve teaching in STEM intro courses, and we collaborated on a NSF grant that has been submitted to improve pedagogical training for our future faculty (TAs) in our STEM departments.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: 1. We have some faculty members that don?t seem to respect biology education research as a field. In that case, in addition to data, we also talk about other intangibles, such as “this style of teaching is more fun” or “fits better with our/my personality.” As a general rule, we did not try to push on faculty that were resistant. (We have enough faculty that are interested to see change now.) 2. Many faculty admitted they have a desire but no time to make changes, this barrier will hopefully be addressed by our new campus STEM program for course release for interested faculty. Personally, we try to show these faculty that very small changes can be made - that every baby step is a step in the right direction.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: We have met with many faculty one-on-one, have given invited talks on campus to administrators, have talked within our department and in other departments, have had campus news write-ups, have served as role models at the National Academies Summer Institute for faculty just beginning these methods, have presented our work at SABER, have given a Pearson-sponsored internet talk, and have a manuscript in preparation. In the future, we hope to serve as campus representatives to talk about the outcomes of our STEM faculty development projects and help write manuscripts related to these projects.

Acknowledgements: We are thankful to our on-campus collaborators and supporters, especially Bob Henshaw, Andrea Reubens, and Mike Crimmins. And for the data analysis and mentorship, we are most thankful to Sarah Eddy and Scott Freeman at UW in Seattle, and Kathrin Stanger and Peggy Brickman at UGA in Athens.