Students were assessed in the following areas: exams, in-class group work and group projects.
Students are given three exams during the course of the semester each worth 20% of their final grade. The goal of the exams is to evaluate their competency in two areas: 1) content knowledge of statistical concepts and 2) ability to transfer their content knowledge to solve problems related to social issues.
During the course of the semester, students complete ten in-class group work assignments worth 15% of their grade. Students work in groups of 3 or 4 and are allowed to choose their own groups but are asked to find new partners at various times throughout the semester. These assignments are typically done at the end of the class period and take approximately 40 to 50 minutes to complete. Even though students work in groups on the assignments, each student hands in an individual write up and receives an individual grade. Given the three hour and 20 minute length of the classes and the once per week meeting times at Metropolitan State University, this has proven to be a very successful way for students to test their knowledge of the material before they leave the classroom and do not return for another week.
The group project is worth 25% of the student's final grade. That 25% is divided among the stages of the project in the following way:
- Proposal - 15%
- Data Collection - 15%
- Rough Draft - 20%
- Oral Presentation - 10%
- Final Report - 30%
- Action Letter - 10%
To assess the course, two instruments were used: 1) Metropolitan State University's Instructional Improvement Questionnaire and 2) the SENCER
Student Assessment of Learning Gains.
Instructional Improvement Questionnaire
Metropolitan State University's Instructional Improvement Questionnaire is a required course assessment that instructors must administer at the end of the each semester. There are 24 questions on the questionnaire pertaining to the quality of the course, the quality of the instructor for the course, and the environment of the classroom. Students rate the questions on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being an excellent rating and 5 being the poorest rating. In addition to the 24 questions, there is space for students to given written feedback on what they liked about the course/instructor and suggestions for improving the course. In both the spring of 2007 (2 sections of 32 students) and the fall of 2007 (1 section of 32 students), students in Statistics I With Community-Based Projects rated the overall quality of the course with a 1.6. This rating is not as strong as the instructor's average rating for the overall quality of all courses she teaches. However since the spring of 2007 was the first time the instructor had ever taught statistics and the first time she had ever incorporated any type of semester long project into a mathematics course, the results still indicate a very positive experience for the student. In addition, written comments on the assessment were very positive towards the quality of the course and a few samples of comments follow.
"This was one of the best classes I have EVER taken in terms of really learning something as a result of the experiential learning opportunity of this project. This comes from a student that wanted to avoid any additional math."
"You should also know that I consistently refer to this course as one of the few courses I have taken that I actually use everyday. So I say THANKS TO YOU and all of the forces that dropped me into that particular statistics course."
"The course gave a global picture to understanding the use and need for statistics - that made a big difference in my desire to learn."
SENCER Student Assessment of Learning Gains
During the spring of 2007, the SENCER pre and post-SALG were administered to both sections of Statistics I With Community-Based Projects. The results of the post-SALG showed large gains for the students in their confidence and ability to understand statistics and its applications. On the bar graph below, questions 1.1 through 1.13 on the pre-test and the corresponding questions 4.1 through 4.13 on the post-test are summarized to demonstrate the significant gains by the students in their attitudes towards statistics and its applications towards understanding social issues.
Questions on bar graph: I am confident that I can ...
- Discuss statistical concepts with my friends or family
- Think critically about statistical-related findings I read or hear about in the media.
- Make an argument using statistical evidence
- Determine the difference between appropriate and inappropriate use ofstatistics
- Interpret tables and graphs
- Understand statistical concepts commonly found in books, newspapers and journals.
- Find journal articles, or statistical data using library/internet databases
- Extract main points from a statistical report and develop a coherent summary
- Give a presentation using statistics to my class
- Describe how statistics is used in analyzing civic/environmental problems
- Pose questions that can be addressed by collecting and evaluating statistical evidence
- Organize a systematic search for relevant data to answer a question
- Write reports using logical reasoning or data as evidence
In addition to administering the SENCER SALG to the students in the two sections of Statistics I With Community-Based Projects, the test was
administered to the other six sections of the traditionally taught Statistics I courses. However, since the assessment could not be required of the students in the other sections, it was only completed by a few students and the results for those few students were not deemed a reliable comparison.