ASSESSING IMPROVEMENTS OF LEARNING OUTCOMES IN TRANSFORMED GEOSCIENCE CLASSES
One challenge of assessing the impacts of improvement efforts is that the things students do are not always the same before and after a course is transformed. Therefore looking for changes in individual or aggregate grades is typically not very useful. We are using a range of measurements to characterize improvements in individual courses and across the curriculum that are not based on scores or test results. Two indicators that relate directly to students’ learning outcomes are: 1) changes in sophistication of test questions based on systematically gauging their Blooms Taxonomy level, and 2) products generated by students in the classroom or at home that demonstrate increasing maturity of conceptual thinking and application. Four more indicators provide indirect evidence that learning outcomes are improving: 3) measures of student perceptions about learning experiences across all our courses; 4) assessment of new strategies directly aimed at helping students develop metacognitive abilities and solo, group or team working skills; 5) data on teaching practices of all faculty gathered before beginning our initiative and again six years later; and 6) characterizations of courses using a published classroom observation protocol. These data sets, and relationships between them for individual courses, multiple courses and department-wide, can help assess the adoption of research-based instructional strategies and hence the likelihood that learning outcomes are increasingly sophisticated and consistent in our geoscience courses.
The larger task is to assess department-wide improvements in learning outcomes, however, the aim of this presentation is to demonstrate use of these measures individually and in combination using highlights from two geoscience courses.