|The Roadmap to Redesign
Chattanooga State Technical Community College
Course Title: General Psychology
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.
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.
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:
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.
In the redesign, did students learn more, less or the same compared to the traditional format?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.