Impact on Students
Florida Gulf Coast University
In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?
The aim of Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts is to develop the content knowledge of the visual and performing arts, the skills necessary to analyze a variety of art forms, and a willingness to attend arts activities. To assess the effectiveness of the redesign project, the team tracked student success in traditional sections and in the redesigned course. Both the traditional and the redesigned courses used the same syllabus, text, exams (with objective questions that came from the same test banks and the same short essay questions), pre- and post-tests, and student evaluations. Students in the redesigned version showed improvements in learning both the content information and the skills in the course.
Assessment of content knowledge. Students in the redesigned course succeeded at a much higher level than those in the traditional course on objective questions of the module exams, which tested content knowledge. The FGCU team analyzed 555 exams from the traditional course and 2272 exams from the redesigned course. All exams came from the same test bank, so they were also able to track benchmark questions in both types of courses. The average grade on the exams in the traditional course was a 72 percent, as compared to an 85 percent in the redesigned course.
The team also tracked student success on 30 specific questions used in both classes. In all but 3 cases, the students did markedly better in the redesigned course than they did in the traditional course. In those three cases, the gap between the number of students who answered the question correctly in the traditional and redesign was small (less than 5 percent). Generally, in the redesigned course, students answered the questions correctly at a rate13 percent higher than in the traditional course. A similar difference occurred in the pre- and post-test, which included a specific set of content related questions.
Assessment of critical thinking skills. The team compared scores on the short essays that were part of the module exams and found that students scored higher in the redesigned course than in the traditional course. Scores on 217 essays in the traditional course and 1371 in the redesigned course were compared. While the percentage of As and Cs remained about the same, the percentage of Bs increased from 26 percent to 39 percent, and the percentage of Ds and Fs dropped from 21 percent to 7 percent in the redesigned course.
The increase in scores was dramatic in the redesigned course, with far fewer students receiving a 1 (a failing grade) and far more students receiving a 3 (equivalent to a B). The team attributes the success of the students in the redesigned course to the web board discussions where students analyze two sets of sample essays, one where the essays are "exploded" providing the students with an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the essays and one where the essays are not exploded and the students must analyze the strengths and weaknesses.
Assessing the difference in retention between the traditional and the redesigned courses based on an analysis of DWF rates proved to be difficult because different standards for passing the course were applied. The adjuncts who taught the traditional course curved their module exam grades, often by as much as 15 to 20 points. (This curve was disregarded in FGCU's analysis of the scores on individual exams presented above, where the actual scores achieved were used.). A comparison of student outcomes showed that of the 457 students who completed the traditional course, 102 (22 percent) received a D, F, or withdrew. Of the 908 students who completed the redesigned course, 264 (29 percent) received a D, F, or withdrew. Had the curve not been applied, the actual numbers of D and F grades in the traditional course would undoubtedly have been higher. But it is impossible to determine how the curve might have affected voluntary withdrawal.
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