04 May 2008
Back in December 2007 in a term end [assessment report] I asserted the following:
Another influencing factor was my desire that the laboratories should be, if possible, fun. Learning requires motivation. Simply telling the students that they need to learn XYZ does nothing to ignite motivation. I wanted the students to enjoy the laboratories, associate the laboratory experience with pleasure and not frustration. Not only does this buy "mind time" for learning, it also is the only way to make a student who "hates" or dislikes science to change their mind and think about the possibility of a future career in science. Few students taking a typical physics course think, "Oh, this is fun, this is something I want to do for the rest of my life." Yet physics is fun, as are the rest of the physical sciences.
With the conclusion of the spring 2008 term, I felt I had to assess this instructional desire. I ran a short and quick Likert style survey.
|1. Before I took this class my attitude towards science was:|
|☐ Positive: I liked science||☐ Neutral||☐ Negative: I did not like science|
|2. During the semester:|
|☐ I enjoyed physical science class||☐ Neutral||☐ I did not enjoy physical science class|
|3. During the semester:|
|☐ I was glad I signed up for physical science class||☐ Neutral||☐ I was not glad I signed up for physical science class|
|4. After taking this class my attitude towards science is:|
|☐ Positive: I like science||☐ Neutral||☐ Negative: I do not like science|
|5. Before you took this class, had you thought about majoring in science?|
|☐ Yes||☐ No|
|6. Now that you have taken this class, are you considering majoring in science?|
|☐ Yes||☐ No|
I ran an analysis on questions one and four with the results in the following table.
|Like stayed like||11||7|
|Like to neutral||12||1|
|Like to not like||13||0|
|Neutral to like||21||11|
|Neutral stayed neutral||22||3|
|Neutral to dislike||23||0|
|Dislike to like||31||7|
|Dislike to neutral||32||2|
|Dislike stayed dislike||33||0|
Seven students who liked science before the class still like science after the course was over. While one student lost some enthusiasm for science, no student went from liking science to disliking science. I did not "turn off" anyone.
Eleven students went from a neutral attitude to liking science, while three remained neutral towards science.
The exciting news is that seven students went from disliking science to liking science. Underlying this change in attitude was student enjoyment of physical science class. Twenty-five students reported enjoying the course, only one dislike the course.
|Did not enjoy class||3||1|
While rigorous in its science, math, and writing demands on the students with a paper due each and every week, the students still had fun in the course. Tough but "fun" is possible.
Questions five and six looked at whether attitude shifts might translate to encouraging students to think about majoring in science. The impact here was not as strong, but then hoping that a single course in a lifetime might cause a student to change their life goal is a bit over-optimistic. The following table looks at whether a student had thought about majoring in science before taking the course versus whether they were inclined to major in science now that the course is coming to a close. Bear in mind that the course has few to no HCOP majors and few marine biology majors. HCOP and marine majors typically route through other science classes.
|Yes stayed yes||11||3|
|Yes to no||13||3|
|No to yes||31||7|
|No stayed no||33||18|
That seven switched to thinking about majoring in science from not thinking about majoring in science is encouraging. That 18 remained unconvinced should be no surprise. This is a general education course serving primarily non-science majors in education, business, liberal arts, and Micronesian studies among other majors. That three switched to not considering majoring in science is of some concern, but maybe the course helped them make their own decisions. The course focused not on the memorized factoids that appears to be typical of the local public school system and centered on less structure, exploratory laboratories. The course put mathematics and writing at the core of the course. This may have revealed for these three the nature of science to be something other than what they thought was the case.
As I asserted last fall, physical science can be both educational and enjoyable. Physics is fun.
I am indebted and thankful to the division chair and others in the faculty and administration who have respected my saying "no" to projects that would pull me out of the classroom. Getting learning and assessment to happen requires a tremendous amount of work, that should not be sugar coated. I hope I provide useful ideas to others on assessment options they might deploy as I work on different assessments. All of the assessment work I have done back to 1992 can be accessed at:
I would also note that the above data is a perfect example of the type of use I would have for a Scantron in this building, and the associated Class Climate software. I do hope that the effort to acquire this from Scantron has not fallen off the table yet again. My hand tallying is surely subject to error at various steps in the process.