published December 31, 1969

SENCER E-Newsletter, March 2004, Volume 2, Issue 7

First Results from the SENCER SALG Reported - By: Tim Weston, University of Colorado

Ten SENCER instructors and their students have finished the first round of surveys for the SENCER Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG). The SENCER SALG is a web-based survey that allows students to rate how much specific course activities such as lecture, lab, or discussion helps their learning. The assessment tool also asks students to report on their general level of science skills and interests, as well their participation and interest in civic activities.

During November and December, 712 students completed the "post" version of the SALG; 568 of these students were enrolled in SENCER courses, the remainder were in a non-SENCER course. Of the SENCER students, more females than males (72% to 28%), and more non-science majors than science majors (90.5% to 9.5%) answered the survey. Sixty-five percent of students were white, 10% African-American, 9% Latino/Hispanic, 8% Asian and 1% Native American. The remaining answered other. Students from each class standing answered the survey (Freshman = 14%, Sophomore = 36%, Junior = 20%, Senior =28%, 2% = Graduate), and the majority of students had taken 2-3 science courses previously (51%), while 30% had taken only the science course in which they were enrolled. Twelve percent (12%) of students were enrolled in teacher training courses.

Results from the SALG varied by class, but comparisons among activities across all classes showed the following (all averages are on a scale of 1 – 5)

  • On the average, students rated "learning science facts" (3.8) more helpful to their learning then gathering (3.1) or analyzing (3.2) scientific data.
  • Students rated "addressing real world issues" (4.1) as more helpful to their learning than "learning science facts" (3.8).
  • Lectures and presentations (4.16) were rated as more helpful than learning activities such as discussions (3.6) and group work (3.2).
  • Students were more confident in their ability to "discuss scientific concepts with friends or family" (3.67) than their ability to "understand how scientific research is carried out," (3.4) and "obtain scientific data in the lab or field" (3.0).
  • After finishing the class, students say they are more likely to "discuss a science related issue informally," (3.9) "discuss a civic issue informally" (3.9) or "read a science-related magazine"(3.5) than such activities as writing letters to public officials (3.0), talking with public officials (3.0) or attending rallies or meetings (3.3).

One class took both the pre and post versions of the SALG. Students in this class demonstrated significantly higher ratings of confidence in general science skills and interest in science activities on the post SALG than on the pre. Additionally, one third to one half of the students agreed or strongly agreed that they were more likely to engage in a range of civic activities such as writing letters to the editor or offer public comments on a civic issue after participating in the SENCER course. Future pre/post comparisons with much larger groups of students are planned for future administrations of the SALG, as well as comparisons with much larger groups of students are planned for future administrations of the SALG, as well as comparisons with students in non-SENCER courses.

Students taking the SALG made suggestions for additional skills, interests, and activities to be included in future versions. After review, revisions to the SALG will be made for the spring post version. The validity of the SALG is also being examined. Early analyses of the psychometric qualities of the survey are encouraging. Additionally, the assessment team is interviewing instructors whose students have taken the SALG to learn more about their SENCER courses and their views on the usefulness of the SENCER SALG.