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The Roadmap to Redesign

Chattanooga State Technical Community College

Course Title: General Psychology
Contact: Donna Seagle

Project Abstract
Interim Progress Report (as of 5/15/05)
Interim Progress Report (as of 4/15/06)
Final Report (as of 7/1/06)

Project Abstract

Chattanooga State plans to redesign its General Psychology course, currently taught in a conventional lecture format. Eighteen sections with class sizes ranging from 18 to 95 students serve approximately 522 students each semester. Three full-time tenure-track professors teach ten sections and seven adjunct instructors teach the remaining eight sections. Each instructor develops his or her own syllabi and content.

The multiple section model used in the course leads to several academic problems including minimal faculty collaboration in developing and delivering course content, duplication of course administrative responsibilities, and an overall lack of consistency across sections in meeting transfer requirements. In addition, the lecture method pays insufficient attention to students' diverse learning styles. Finally, the department is concerned about its over-dependence on adjunct faculty instructors.

The college has chosen the Buffet Model as the basis for its redesign of General Psychology. The model was selected to reduce the number of in-class meetings and the number of faculty members teaching the course while increasing student-based learning. The number of sections will be reduced to six of 100 students each taught by two full-time faculty members each term, providing one hour of lecture per section per week. Adjunct faculty will no longer teach General Psychology. One adjunct faculty instructor will lead two optional one-hour discussion groups per week, monitor mandatory online threaded discussions, and provide technical support for students.

The redesign plan will focus on a 24/7 interactive web site developed cooperatively by tenure-track faculty. The web-based learning environment will include common elements such as the syllabus, learning objectives, online video segments, interactive activities with portfolio evaluation, mastery quizzing using WebCT quiz tools, class email, threaded discussions and grade book. Online simulations will illustrate concepts, theories and research methodologies. Grading will be based upon computerized portfolio evaluation, five proctored tests and collaborative writing assignments including online threaded discussion.

Ongoing assessment will evaluate student retention, performance, and satisfaction. Academic pre- and post-tests, two course evaluation questionnaires, and course web site tracking will provide comparable measures between the traditional and redesigned formats. Subject area pre- and post-tests will be developed collaboratively during the fall to be administered during the Spring 2005. Student failure rates and retention rates for all sections will be calculated. During spring 2005, five additional sections of the redesign will be added and comparison data gathered and analyzed. General Psychology will be taught using exclusively the redesign format during fall semester of 2005.

Cost savings will be achieved by reducing the number of full-time faculty teaching the course and eliminating adjunct instructors. The cost-per-student will decrease from $130 to $42, and the total semester course cost will decrease from $67,857 (serving 522 students) to $25,311 (serving 600 students.) Because each faculty member will be responsible for three rather than nine hours of lecture per week, the additional six hours per week will allow faculty members time to develop and teach new upper level courses. In addition, classroom space will be freed for other uses.

Interim Progress Report (as of 5/15/05)

The CSTCC redesign team, consisting of both full- and part-time faculty, met weekly during fall 2004 to organize the pedagogy and curriculum for the redesign. As part of an internal public relations campaign, the team provided course descriptions to all faculty and advising staff and to the faculty senate. Reactions were (as expected) mixed. Some worried that community college students are not prepared for an active learning environment, others that instructors would be detached from students. The team leader provided detailed explanations of the course curriculum, demonstrating the departments increased commitment to student-centered learning and diverse learning styles.

Organizing faculty class schedules was challenging. Since faculty are required to teach 15 hours (5 classes), the team had to develop a new formula, with administrative and faculty senate approval, for calculating faculty load. The CSTCC team has received the necessary approvals for the new workload schedule and for the use of two student tutors. CSTCC will use WebCT to manage mastery quizzes based on the test bank that accompanies the text. The team is discussing a possible site license with Wadsworth/E-Learning that will include interactive study plans and 24/7 tutoring services.

The spring 2005 pilot consisted of five redesigned sections with class limits of 100 students and five traditional sections. Those elements that worked well were online quizzing, using email, team teaching, scheduling and attendance flexibility for students, teaching topics rather than chapters and using technology in the classroom.

The team encountered a number of issues which will be corrected as they move toward full implementation, which include: 1) student attendance, 2) sporadic student participation in online discussion, and 3) mislabeled course descriptions in registration materials.

To increase attendance, CSTCC plans to add a student response system (such as TurningPoint), which will increase interactivity in the large classroom. The team is considering reorganizing both the discussion groups and due dates and plans to stress the use and importance of the online discussions. One idea is to offer a low point value discussion about "What is Psychology?", "Memory", "Learning Styles", or "Motivation" or a quiz about WebCT itself during the first week of class. CSTCC recognizes that they need to revise learning objectives and web site materials overall, possibly eliminating online class Powerpoint slides since students need to focus on objectives rather than Powerpoint notes.

For the spring pilot, courses were listed in the student catalogue as meeting one day a week along with a TBA (to be announced) designation. Students ignored the TBA and resisted involvement with activities outside the one day of announced lecture. In fall 2005, classes will be designated as TR or MW and will include a notification that online participation will be an integral part of the course.

Interim Progress Report (as of 4/15/06)

Spring 2006 was the fourth term of CSTCC’s redesigned psychology course. The team experienced fewer design glitches, better student participation, and lower faculty and student frustration during the term. A total of 489 students in fall 2005 and 461 students in spring 2006 enrolled in six redesigned sections (capacity is 600 students per term.) As usual, CSTCC experienced some attrition the week after spring break and just before the drop date. A week before the drop date, the team directed each student to look at his or her cumulative points, add the remaining possible points, then decide if he or she could earn the desired final grade. This strategy motivated some at-risk students to ask for help or to drop before failure.

The team has practiced continuous improvement as the course has progressed, including the following changes:

  • Updated and reduced the number of the course objectives to represent more accurately the material that students are expected to learn. During previous terms, students were overwhelmed with the volume of material. The team reorganized the web site, utilizing a consistent format for all course content.
  • Edited PowerPoints to match the updated course objectives and reduced the number from approximately 505 slides to a more manageable number of 330 for the semester. In addition, PowerPoints were formatted to six per printed page to simplify the students’ printing process. Previously, wasted paper and ink resulted when 500 students printed 505 slides with one slide per sheet of paper.
  • Met with the CSTCC Advising Center staff to explain the redesign so they can better represent the course to registering students. The semester schedule and online registration system provided students with information that indicated that WebCT use was mandatory for the course. In the spring 2005 pilot, many students were surprised by the requirement. Very few were during spring 2006.
  • Sent students a weekly informational email (e.g., video viewing times, use of PowerPoints, office hours, assignment due dates.) The team also called all students who had not logged into the web site within the first two weeks of the term and called all at-risk students mid-term. Many students responded by increased participation or by dropping the course to avoid a final failing grade.
  • Conducted all redesigned classes in the same lecture hall. Previously using two different classrooms caused confusion. In addition three of the four faculty members now have offices ten steps from the classroom. This proximity addressed most student concerns about teacher availability.
  • Assigned specific sections to the three team members who taught those sections the entire term. During spring 2005 term, the team rotated sections, which caused both faculty and student confusion. Although the redesign is a team-teaching project, students seem to need to identify one person as their teacher.
  • Introduced a student response system. The team anticipates increased class participation through interactive learning. Student feedback about the “clickers” has been very positive. Beginning in fall 2006, the team plans to use the student response system for collecting attendance data.
  • Introduced a Psychology of Study sub-unit following the first exam that reviewed exams, presented tips for study, test-taking and memory, introduced helpful web links, and discussed personal study strategies in students’ online writing assignments. In addition, students completed a short assignment to help them identify their learning strengths and weaknesses using North Carolina State ’s Index of Learning Styles. Most students were fully engaged in this assignment, a reminder that learning is facilitated by the learner’s personal involvement. This opportunity to review performance not only supported students’ continuous improvement, but also the instructors’. For instance, the student learning style assessments refocused teaching on class activities such as discussions and worksheets, more visual presentations, and more real life examples.
  • Collaborated with a local TV station. Students viewed and commented on a topic-related video produced by the station. Their comments were captured on tape and broadcast on the local evening news.
  • Evaluated the online discussions. The team plan to try a more structured debate approach to insure research-based discussion postings.
  • Offered two guest speakers outside of class through CSTCC’s Psychosocial Club. Students had an opportunity to interact with students in other class sections whose names they had seen on their email lists and within their online discussion boards but had not met. The response was very positive.

Other changes included the following: 1) adding a “Getting Started” PowerPoint Presentation to the home page, which helped students who missed the first day of class get up to speed; 2) adding an “APA Citation Directions” link (along with the current resource database link) to the home page; 3) using learning objects in class, which helped keep lectures fresh; and, 4) creating smaller groupings for online discussion postings. These changes have increased student participation and broadened teaching tools.

The team is in the process of analyzing data for the fall 2005 unit exams scores, student grade distributions, student retention rates, course evaluation surveys, and pre/post assessments. A brief review indicates improved post-assessment scores and final grade distributions.

Students and teachers continue to report that they like the scheduling flexibility, having one teacher assigned to specific sections throughout the term, weekly informational mass emails, and 24/7 access to course materials through WebCT. Faculty and staff campus-wide have a better understanding the redesign model. The team is still working on full participation by all instructors at off-campus sites, class attendance and participation, and helping students who are slow to accept computer use. As with any team experience, CSTCC continues to be challenged by workload distribution issues and different teaching styles. However, the benefits to the students and the psychology department have reinforced CSTCC’s commitment to the redesign. The redesign format will continue during summer and fall 2006.

Final Report (as of 7/1/06)

Impact on Students

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

Improved Learning

Student learning of content knowledge before and after the redesign was measured by using pre- and post-tests. Students enrolled in the redesigned sections showed significant improvements in content knowledge as well as significantly better absolute post-test performances. Students in the traditional course had a pre-test mean of 21 and a post-test mean of 26. Students in the redesigned course had a pre-test mean of 25 and a post-test mean of 36, which is significant at the .01 level.

Improved Retention

Retention in the redesigned course was not as high as in the traditional course. The number of students successfully completing the course (grade of C or better) declined from 63% in the traditional course to 49% in the redesign. The team was not surprised since the traditional course suffered from significant inconsistencies in both content and grading. Prior to the redesign, some adjuncts consistently awarded all students in their sections A or B grades.

Impact on Cost Savings

Were costs reduced as planned?

The team followed its original cost savings plan and reduced the number of full-time faculty teaching the course from 10 to 6 and eliminated adjunct instructors. The redesign has significantly reduced the department’s dependence on adjunct instructors, reduced work load and increased room availability while decreasing grade inflation and standardizing curriculum across sections. Additional cost savings include a reduction in printing costs for the syllabus, exams and other course materials.

Lessons Learned

Pedagogical Improvement Techniques

What techniques contributed most to improving the quality of student learning?

Shared resources. The redesign standardized curriculum, requirements, and resources, creating greater consistency of course content. Continued curriculum design and resource development took advantage of team members’ various areas of expertise to contribute to enriched course content. The team accomplished the following specific improvements: edited course objectives and PowerPoints to better reflect course content; reorganized chapter order into three integrated units; created a syllabus quiz to encourage immediate and informed student involvement; used learning objects, web resources and an audience response system to keep lectures fresh and encourage participation; and, added a “Getting Started” link on the course homepage specifically for students who missed the first day of class.

Progress monitoring. The team used the CSTCC phone tree to alert at-risk students and sent weekly email to students to keep them informed about office hours, tutor availability, and study tips. They also sent “How are you doing?” emails, which stimulated greater engagement.

Responding to multiple learning styles. Student learning styles were addressed by multi-modal teaching materials such as PowerPoints, online discussions, open-book quizzes, an audience-response system, class activities, lectures and web resources. In addition students evaluated their learning styles by using the North Carolina State University Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire.

Student flexibility. All students had access to the course web site, to classroom lectures and activities and to faculty team members. This offered students both flexibility and responsibility. For example, students could attend as many or as few classes as they chose with any team faculty member and could take exams online or in the classroom. Students interacted with classmates and faculty members who were not necessarily in their section. Because use of WebCT was required, many students developed IT skills along with learning psychology content.

Cost Savings Techniques

What techniques contributed most to reducing costs?

Cost savings were based on increasing section size and standardizing the curriculum and the course web site. The traditional version of the course required approximately 45 classroom hours and teaching hours a week. The redesign requires 12 classroom hours and teaching hours per week. Even though faculty team members spend additional time communicating with students online, reduction in classroom time has allowed for continued curriculum development and faculty availability to individual students during expanded office hours.

Implementation Issues

What implementation issues were most important?

Departmental and campus buy-in. The most significant implementation issues have stemmed from a lack of understanding and acceptance of the redesign model on the part of both psychology faculty and staff and the larger campus community. Remedies have included replacing resistant faculty with more progressive new hires and scheduling orientation meetings with office support staff and academic advisors.

Student preparation for the new format. Some students were surprised about the amount of online activity required. Now the semester schedule and online registration materials indicate that WebCT use is a course requirement.

Sustainability

Will the redesign be sustained now that the R2R program has concluded?

The redesign will be sustained, and the team looks forward to adding two new enthusiastic faculty members to the team.

Will you apply the redesign methodology to other courses and programs on campus?

Elements of the redesign model are included in the redesign of Psychology of Personal Adjustment and Abnormal Psychology. Sociology is considering using the redesign model for Introduction to Sociology.

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