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Impact on Students

Iowa State University

In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?

Improved Learning

Students in the redesigned sections performed better than the traditional students at statistically significant levels. These results are based on student scores on comparable examinations in fall 2002, spring 2003, and fall 2003. Students in redesigned sections did better than the traditional sections on 11 out of 13 tests, with comparable results on the remaining tests. [Note: Full implementation of the redesign is scheduled for spring 2004.]

After adjusting for high school mathematics experience (algebra, geometry, and trigonometry), high school rank, and ACT scores in algebra/geometry, elementary algebra, geometry/trigonometry, and general mathematics, these differences are less pronounced and less frequently statistically significant, but the redesigned sections still performed significantly better than the traditional sections on the majority of the exams. The effect of gender was not statistically significant.

Improved Retention

Also based on pilot-test results, both the drop rate and the percentage of D and F grades were higher in the redesigned section than in the traditional section. The team attributes the higher drop rate to the fact that Discrete Mathematics has not yet been converted entirely to the redesigned format. Those students who prefer classroom-based sections switched to classroom-based sections when space became available. Beginning in spring 2004, all sections will be web-based, and the team expects the drop rate to go down.

The higher rate of Ds and Fs was partly due to more lenient grading on the part of traditional instructors (higher final grades despite lower exam scores) In addition, grade distribution in the redesigned sections was more polarized than in the traditional sections: there were more As, but also more Fs. The students who kept up with the assignments tended to learn more and perform better in the redesigned course; the students who usually got by cramming for a few exams did not do so well. One new approach being tried in spring 2004 is Supplemental Instruction, additional tutoring sessions provided by the Academic Success Center at ISU.

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Program in Course Redesign Quick Links:

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