Disappointing student achievements are strive in introductory courses at large open-enrolment universities. At least that is our experience in the first year. We have created a moderate structure Cell Biology course, with group-based activities, clicker-quizzes and more frequent in-course assessments, with the aim of reducing the mass experience and align teaching better with the secondary-school experience. The results are remarkably positive but…… the comprehensive final exam remains a destructive friction for a large subpopulation of students.

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Date: 02/01/2022

Structured course-format and destructive friction of a comprehensive final exam

The transition from secondary to higher education remains problematic given low retention figures in science courses, in particular at open-enrolment universities. Adjustment to a new learning environment and dealing with the mass experience are factors at play. We looked for ways to ease the adjustment and to moderate the mass experience by creating a moderate-structure Cell Biology course, characterized by group-based activities, frequent in-course assessments and reduced weighting of the final exam score. Comparison of 4 years of low-structure with 4 years of moderate-structure courses, after correction for annual cohort ability, revealed that moderate-structure yields 8% higher grade points and 5% higher retention. However, the overall gain in performance was largely dependent on in-course scores and improvements were only weak for the final exam. The frequency of students underperforming on the final exam, relative to their in-course scores, increased enormously in moderate-structure courses, from 53 to 90.3%. We see this as a sign that for a substantial number of students, the final exam remained a destructive friction. As a result, we are still dealing with a population that has not assimilated a considerable portion of the cell biology knowledge and is starting the second year with significant gaps. Read more.



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Last Updated July 14, 2010 3:45 PM | admin news