Developing an Introductory Biology Preparation Assessment Tool

Developing an Introductory Biology Preparation Assessment Tool

Academic Year:
2014 - 2015 (June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015)
Funding Requested:
Project Dates:
Chair Uniqname:
Overview of the Project:
Students who elect to enroll in Introductory Biology (171 and 172/174) have diverse biology backgrounds and prior coursework experience. This diversity in preparation is a challenge both for instructors and less-prepared students. Underprepared students often struggle in Introductory Biology, and many end up leaving biology. We need to find ways to correct this preparation deficit and increase success of these students in Introductory Biology if we hope to retain these students in STEM fields. We plan to develop a preparation assessment for students entering Introductory Biology; this assessment will allow us to identify the least prepared students so that we can prevent them from having an adverse outcome in Introductory Biology. The assessment will be developed based on the current Introductory Biology curriculum along with the Next Generation Science Standards for high school biology, and will be tested and validated before it used. Results of the assessment will be used to advise underprepared students into non-majors biology courses or other 100-level topics courses to help mitigate their preparation deficit prior to enrollment in Introductory Biology. The assessment will be used in the Comprehensive Studies Program sections of Introductory Biology at first, and may be expanded to the large sections in the future.
Proposal PDF:
Additional Supporters:
<p>Harold Waters,</p>
Final Report Fields
Project Objectives:

1. To develop an introductory biology preparation assessment test 2. To determine what factors affect performance in introductory biology 3. To predict student performance in Intro Bio by using preparation assessment scores and other readily available data

Project Achievements:

We have a preparation assessment that we are reasonably confident “works” for predicting student success in Intro Bio, along with ACT score. The assessment works better for 171 than 172, so we know we need to refine the 172 portion of the assessment for the future. We continue to search for and think about other factors that we can measure to include in the predictive model, as we would like to have a model we are very confident in before we use it for advising. Some students outperform or underperform by a large margin, which is surprising and challenging. We’d like to try and figure out what is happening with these individual students, both to inform the assessment and to think more about how to best support our CSP students. Engaging in this project has helped me think more about what types of supplemental instruction might be necessary to support my students. I was expecting students to struggle with some of the content on the pre-assessment, but I did not expect average performance to be less than 50%. Questions were based on the Next Generation Science Standards for high school science, but it abundantly clear that my students do not leave high school having mastered this material. I hope that this project might inspire other CSP faculty to design similar assessments, as proper course placement for freshmen, especially those with weak academic backgrounds, may play a big role in retention/graduation rate at UM, as well as retention in STEM majors.

We will continue to improve and refine the assessment, as well as to try and determine what other factors affect student performance in intro bio. We found a significant relationship between student success and both the pre-assessment and ACT scores, but we are not explaining as much of the variation as we’d like.
Once we are more comfortable with the predictive modeling, we hope the assessment will be used for placement advising, at least in Bridge or CSP.
We participated in the May 2 poster session and the poster has been shared with colleagues in Biology & CSP. I also presented the results at the CSP Instructor’s meeting on April 20, 2016.