The Effects of Promoting Student Autonomy in a Gateway Course

The Effects of Promoting Student Autonomy in a Gateway Course

Academic Year:
2013 - 2014 (June 1, 2013 through May 31, 2014)
Funding Requested:
Project Dates:
Chair Uniqname:
Overview of the Project:
This project investigates what effects significantly increased student autonomy in a large introductory course has for student learning, learning styles, and future success as well as how this autonomy shapes students' course and academic career choices. The project focuses on Political Science 101, Introduction to Political Theory, in which I try to foster student autonomy by offering multiple, optional paths to satisfy course requirements, by using nonstandard evaluation instruments to leverage students' prior skills and inclinations, and by giving students some choice in how they are graded. The project uses multiple methods, including quantitative comparisons of student college careers, surveys, and interviews. The project contributes to discussions of student motivation, learning and its assessment, self-regulated learning and metacognition, and to questions of how to plan, run, and assess large courses.
Final Report Fields
Project Objectives:

Descriptive Statistics - Is there a difference between course and major choices for students who have taken the reformed POLSCI 101, in comparison to my earlier versions and to my colleagues' versions? If there are differences, what are they? - Does the reformed POLSCI 101 have an effect on students' performance in their subsequent courses, in contrast to the comparison courses? If yes, what kind? - Does the reformed POLSCI 101 have an effect on different types of students, in comparison to the contrast groups? For example, do some groups of students perform better or worse than expected (McKay et al., 2012)? Thick(er) Descriptions - How do students describe their experience in the reformed POLSCI 101, in contrast to the other courses they have taken? - How do students describe the differences that the course made for their choices and successes at the UM?

Project Achievements:

A survey of 1600 students, including qualitative follow-up interviews, revealed that the approach of gameful pedagogy works to engage students more, have them do work, and enjoy material that they would not otherwise have enjoyed. The findings have informed my own teaching as as well as the teaching of colleagues at Michigan and elsewhere. My approach received the 2014 APSA-Congressional Quarterly Teaching Innovation Prize and thereby quite a bit of national attention among political scientists.

I continue to experiment with these approaches AND I continue the study of my efforts. They are now partly folded into the TLTC-supported "Gameful Assessment in Michigan Education" (GAME) project.
In addition to the above-mentioned elements, I have presented on the approach at Michigan and elsewhere and will also submit an article to a disciplinary SOTL journal.