Testing the Effectiveness of Student-Centered Pedagogy in a Large Introductory Physical Geology Course

Wednesday 4:30pm-5:45pm TSU - Humphries: 118
Poster Session Part of Wednesday


Theresa Halligan, Iowa State University
Cinzia Cervato, Iowa State University
Ulrike Genschel, Iowa State University
Large enrollment introductory science courses generally have a range of student engagement that can result in low attendance and participation. Instructors may implement active learning techniques to encourage participation, choosing from a broad spectrum of possible activities from occasional Think-Pair-Share exercises to a entirely student-centered approach like Team-Based Learning or 'flipped' classrooms.

This study compares the impact of the transition from an interactive pedagogy (fall 2014) to a flipped approach (fall 2015) on student learning and attendance in a physical geology course taught by the same instructor. Assessment in both semesters consisted of two-stage cooperative exams, which were kept the same for comparison. In-class quizzes were used to compare attendance between the semesters.

The results show that students in the fully student-centered class were more likely to attend class (85.3%) than the fall 2014 students (82.0%), and that the difference is statistically significant (p-value=0.05). We hypothesized that students did progressively better on the individual exam as the semester progressed. We tested this hypothesis by comparing the individual scores and the normalized change score between individual and group score for each exam. The results show that students in fall 2014 had higher scores on the individual attempt at the end of the semester compared with the beginning (p-value<0.001). However, when comparing normalized change scores as a proxy for how much they could improve, students in fall 2015 had a smaller gap by the end of the semester compared both to the beginning of the semester (p-value<0.001) and to students from fall 2014 (p-value<0.001).

These results suggest that the flipped class was a successful approach in our large introductory physical geology class for both content retention and for increasing students' attendance.