Friday, December 19, 2014

Analyzing Science Education in the United Kingdom

Characterizing science education dichotomously as either “formal” or “informal” doesn't make sense:

Increasing evidence suggests that individuals develop their understanding of science concepts in and out of school, using varied community resources and networks. Thus in contrast to historic research approaches that focus exclusively on single organizations and/or educational events, the current paper presents exploratory research in which we utilized specific community ecology analytical tools and approaches to describe and analyze the U.K. science education community as a whole. Data suggest that overall the U.K. science education community is highly interconnected, and collaborative within individual sectors and moderately interconnected and collaborative between sectors; schools and to a lesser degree universities were outliers to this pattern. An important conclusion was that management to maximize the effectiveness of science education the U.K. science education community would involve support for continued diversification of the number of science education entities in the system and encouragement of reciprocally collaborative, synergistic relationships. We posit that systemic research enables a broader, more comprehensive view of a system's strengths and weaknesses, offering useful insights into the structure and functioning of science education activities; insights that could help researchers, practitioners, and policy makers improve the overall quality of science education delivery for all.

Analyzing Science Education in the United Kingdom: Taking a System-Wide Approach. Science Education 17 December 2014 doi: 10.1002/sce.21140

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Increasing Student Engagement with Practical Classes Through Online Pre-Lab Quizzes

Quiz submission rates Laboratory practicals classes are an essential component of all science degrees, but are a pinch point because of rising student numbers, rising student expectations and falling student exposure to laboratory work prior to entering higher education. Augmentation of physical laboratory work with online interventions is not new, but as virtual laboratories become increasingly sophisticated, cutting-edge approaches have become less available to many institutions as they are unable to meet the investment or specialist skills needed to build or maintain these complex tools. This case study examines the possibilities for increasing student engagement with practical work using the simplest tools available in any standard virtual learning environment and available to all. Based on results obtained from a large student cohort, the results indicate that this low-cost, low-tech approach can achieve high levels of student satisfaction.

Cann, A.J. (2014) Increasing Student Engagement with Practical Classes Through Online Pre-Lab Quizzes. Journal of Biological Education, 15 Dec 2014 doi: 10.1080/00219266.2014.986182

PDF here

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Peer Assessment - Six is the Magic Number

Moon Peer assessment of high value written assignments? That pretty much describes this week. So this is of interest:

How to achieve accurate peer assessment for high value written assignments in a senior undergraduate course. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 09 Dec 2014 doi: 10.1080/02602938.2014.987721
The psychometric measures of accuracy, reliability and validity of peer assessment are critical qualities for its use as a supplement to instructor grading. In this study, we seek to determine which factors related to peer review are the most influential on these psychometric measures, with a primary focus on the accuracy of peer assessment or how closely peer-given grades match those of an instructor. We examine and rank the correlations of accuracy, reliability and validity with 17 quantitative and qualitative variables for three senior undergraduate courses that used peer assessment on high value written assignments. Based on these analyses, we altered the single most significant variable of one of the courses. We demonstrate that the number of reviews completed per reviewer has the greatest influence on the accuracy of peer assessment out of all the factors analysed. Our calculations suggest that six reviews must be completed per reviewer to achieve peer assessment that is no different from the grading of an instructor. Effective training, previous experience and strong academic abilities in the reviewers may reduce this number.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The problem with wikis

Some time back a student pointed me at this great study of the use of wikis in education:

Grant, L. (2009). ‘I DON’T CARE DO UR OWN PAGE!’ A case study of using wikis for collaborative work in a UK secondary school. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 105-117.

The problem with wikis

Although students in higher education have subtler and more passively aggressive ways of staking their claims to online space and contributions, the problem remains the same - it's mine, hands off! And there is exactly the safe problem in the research community.

And that, dear readers, is the problem with wikis, and why everyone hates them.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Problem-solving test: Pyrosequencing

Pyrosequencing I stumbled across this paper today. A very useful resource I'm sure many people could use:

Szeberenyi, J. (2013) Problem‐solving test: Pyrosequencing. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 41(2): 112-115.
Terms to be familiar with before you start to solve the test: Maxam–Gilbert sequencing, Sanger sequencing, gel electrophoresis, DNA synthesis reaction, polymerase chain reaction, template, primer, DNA polymerase, deoxyribonucleoside triphosphates, orthophosphate, pyrophosphate, nucleoside monophosphates, luminescence, acid anhydride bond, phosphodiester bond, mismatch, proofreading, 5′->3′ exonuclease.
Study the principle of pyrosequencing and answer the following multiple-choice questions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Continuous Astressment

Bottles Wise educators keep a weather eye on what the OU does, so this policy change, to switch away from continuous assessment to final grades determined by the end-of-module assessment alone, is interesting. Pedagogically, it make the distinction between formative and summative assessment much clearer. In other words, it represents a return to the Good Old Days when we did not constantly bombard students with salami sliced assessment. Of course, the risk here is that having stepped off the treadmill, both staff and students might actually start to enjoy higher education again.

Jordan, Sally (2014) A review of a faculty-wide change in assessment practice for open and distance learners of science. In: 8th EDEN Research Workshop: Challenged for Research into Open & Distance Learning: Doing Things Better-Doing Better Things, 27-28 October 2014, Oxford, UK.
Previous practice in the Open University Science Faculty has been for all modules to be assessed by a combination of summative continuous assessment, with extensive feedback comments, and an end-of-module task (an examination or an extended assignment). This practice, although well established and apparently well received, has led to concerns, as reported elsewhere, that staff and students have a different understanding of the purpose of continuous assessment: staff see its purpose as primarily formative whilst students are primarily concerned with obtaining high marks. The revised practice still requires students to meet a threshold for their overall continuous assessment score, but the final grade is determined by the end-of-module assessment alone. The evaluation of the change in practice has been split into small practitioner-led sub- projects, comparing impact across different modules and levels, with the aim of identifying factors that lead to improved engagement. Sub-projects are both quantitative, e.g. comparing assignment completion rates before and after the change, and qualitative e.g. investigating student and tutor perceptions and opinion.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Developing Skills in Second Year Biological Science Undergraduates

Kingfisher Something not a million miles away from what is occupying most of my time this term - an undergraduate skills development module. We'd love the luxury of a mere 150 students in a "large" class (that would have been large for us a few years ago - large is now twice that size). We are also taking a PBL type approach, in our case, writing a 5,000 word research proposal, a challenging class for second year students, but our USP is a team-based approach. It remains to be seem how that will work out. Hopefully it will be as effective as this module.

Rosanna L. Robinson and James E. McDonald (2014) Developing Skills in Second Year Biological Science Undergraduates. Bioscience Education 22(1), 42-53. doi: 10.11120/beej.2014.00026
Development of skills in bioscience undergraduates is seen as desirable by academic staff, students and employers, and this is reflected across most degree programmes. However, providing the opportunity for students to practise skills may alone be insufficient for their development. With an evident discrepancy between the skills expected of students and those exhibited, there is a clear argument for explicit teaching of skills in degree programmes. However, student engagement with such modules can be low and with large class sizes, this can be a particular challenge. We designed a module to develop a range of skills for bioscience students, from information gathering, literacy, time management, independence and teamwork, to higher levels skills such as critical and creative thinking and practise of the scientific approach. We provided a framework of lectures to introduce each component of the module, but our approach relied on small group sessions with problem-based activities and self-directed learning supported by computer-based resources. There are frequent, varied, low-stakes assessments, including peer evaluation with rapid feedback. This module builds on skills acquired by students in their first year, links to other second year modules and culminates in preparation of individual student plans for third year projects or dissertations. The module is very popular with students, and the increase in marks for student assignments (particularly the project plan), are evidence of its effectiveness.