|Program in Course Redesign
Pennsylvania State University
The Traditional Course
At the Penn State University Park campus, Elementary Statistics is taught in the fall, spring, and summer semesters, with an annual enrollment of about 2,200. An additional 400 students take the course each year at the university's 20 other campuses.
In the traditional format, students attend three lectures and two recitation meetings per week. Experienced, full-time faculty deliver the one-hour lectures to groups of about 240 students. Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) teach the one-hour recitation sections of about 40 students. GTAs also hold office hours and grade exams. The traditional structure is labor-intensive, requiring 980 hours of faculty time and 3,636 hours of GTA time per semester, thus creating resource problems for the department. More important, the traditional structure is not as effective academically as it could be.
There are four specific academic problems to be solved:
Clearly, there is a need for change in the traditional learning environment to enable students with a variety of learning styles to engage in classroom discussion, collaborate with fellow students, and participate in one-to-one interchange with trained instructors.
The Redesigned Course
The learning goals for the redesigned course require students to:
The course redesign involves reducing lectures from three to one per week, changing traditional recitation sections to computer-mediated workshops, adding technology-based independent learning materials and computerized testing to give students more practice time and feedback, and shifting instructional roles from information presentation to learning facilitation. The combination of smaller classes and computer-mediated data workshops will enable faculty to have more one-to-one contact with individual students. Faculty will be able to address students' different needs, and students can be challenged according to their own skill levels. Computer-based classes will enable students to work in teams, which will generate more active participation. Students will gain hands-on experience with statistical analysis and with the visualization of concepts.
Under the new structure, GTA roles will shift from instruction to guidance. Technology-based instruction and collaborative activities will enable students to independently explore material that is presently taught by GTAs. Reducing the number lectures will allow faculty to guide many of the sections that are presently led by teaching assistants. As a result, GTA roles will shift toward facilitating technology-based individualized and collaborative learning. GTAs will be paired with faculty and an undergraduate intern in the labs, enabling the faculty member to model ways to facilitate learning.
Traditional Course Structure
Redesigned Course Structure
In summary, the redesigned course will implement the following changes:
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