published December 31, 1969

SENCER E-Newsletter, November 2003, Volume 2, Issue 5

Field Report: Using the Pre- and Post SENCER SALG HINTS for SUCCESS - By: Karen Kashmanian Oates (George Mason University; Co-PI, SENCER)

Those of you who've been involved with SENCER for a long time have no doubt heard David and me talk a lot about the SALG, and especially the SENCER SALG. I've been as anxious as anybody about getting SENCER SALG up and going...and now it is!

SENCER has sponsored the development of a two-part, online SENCER SALG - a pre-course version to be administered at the beginning of a course, a post-course version, to be administered at the course's conclusion. Both versions of the SENCER SALG are now available for all of us to use.

As someone who wants others to use this very promising instrument, not only did I want to use it myself, I felt obligated to do so. I am here today to report to you that I am glad I did! I hope you will find the SENCER SALG as useful as my colleagues at George Mason University and I have.

My colleagues and I piloted the pre-course version for a learning community we're teaching. Both the ease of administration and the incredibly fast turn-around of results provided a terrific experience for both the faculty and students involved in the pilot. A sample of the students' reaction to talking the SENCER SALG revealed some interesting and beneficial consequences to administration of this survey (see student comments below). We're now looking forward to having the end-of-semester results.

Through our experience using the pre-course SENCER SALG with 121 students, we'd like to offer you some Hints for Success based on what worked for us.

  • Write the administration of the Pre-course SALG into your course syllabus as homework for the first day of class. This is entirely consistent with the recommendations being made by national panels to embed assessment in what we are doing. All of our students were required to go to a university computer lab or log on from home within a set time period and complete the survey.
  • Contact Sue Lottridge (formerly Daffinrud) at susanlottridge@hotmail.com, 540-435-6751, to help set up any customized questions and to give you the details as to exactly how the students can access the instrument online. Sue also helped us decide what ID the students would use if we wanted pre and post comparison by students rather than our usual pre- and post class comparisons.
  • Prepare a one-page instruction sheet to hand out to students on how to access the SENCER SALG. Students can take these instructions with them to the computer lab or you can have the instructions written into the course syllabus.
  • Link the Pre-course SENCER SALG (and then later the Post-course SENCER SALG) directly to your course website so the students just need to click on the hotlink and get started. The Link to the Pre and Post SENCER SALG is provided on the SALG website.
  • Explain to students why you are requiring them to take this survey and assure them they will not be graded on their answers. Focus on the fact that they are contributing to a body of knowledge about student learning and that you will use the data to make improvements for future students. We let our students know how interested we were in learning from them and that they had a chance to help inform how future offerings of the course can be improved.
  • Require students to e-mail you after completing the SALG or you can have them identify themselves (as we did) at the SALG login site by using our initials followed by a 4 digit code that they need to record and remember for the post course comparisons. We had the students write their login code in their notebooks.

Once you have given students the appropriate time to complete the SENCER SALG, the data will be immediately provided to you. Please notify Sue when you are finished collecting data.

Assign a specific time for the Post course SENCER SALG, put it in the course syllabi and notify Sue at least a week ahead of time if you would like her assistance.

Here is a small sampling of what we learned from our students, gleaned from the report provided by Sue Lottridge:

  • 34% of our students felt confident discussing science concepts with friends & family.
  • 12% believed they could confidently determine differences between science and pseudo-science.
  • 40% claimed they could make an argument using scientific evidence.
  • 57% took the course because it fit into their schedule.
  • 23% of the students said they were interested in majoring in a science related field.
  • 32% reported being very interested in reading about science and its relation to civic issues.
  • 31% said they were interested in taking another science course after this one.
  • 37% claimed to be confident they could pose questions that can be addressed by collecting and evaluating scientific evidence.