TESTING EFFECT AND COMPLEX COMPREHENSION IN A LARGE INTRODUCTORY UNDERGRADUATE BIOLOGY COURSE

Persistent Link:
http://hdl.handle.net/10150/202773
Title:
TESTING EFFECT AND COMPLEX COMPREHENSION IN A LARGE INTRODUCTORY UNDERGRADUATE BIOLOGY COURSE
Author:
Pagliarulo, Christopher Lawrence
Issue Date:
2011
Publisher:
The University of Arizona.
Rights:
Copyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract:
Traditional undergraduate biology courses are content intensive, requiring students to understand and remember large amounts of information in short periods of time. Yet most students maintain little of the material encountered during their education. Poor knowledge retention is a main cause of academic failure and high undergraduate attrition rates. Characterizing strategies that support robust learning is critical for ensuring student success. One such strategy is testing effect, the observation that repeated testing can improve the fidelity and durability of retained knowledge more than an equal quantity of restudy. Numerous investigations have described the nature and boundaries of testing effect. Very few, however, have characterized its efficacy in actual classroom practice. The current study investigated whether repeated testing or repeated study affected student retention and understanding of complex biological concepts. The study was conducted in a large (~320 students) introductory biology class. All study conditions and assessments were required components of the course. Student retention of two fundamental molecular biology "big ideas" was targeted; (1) the relationship between genotype and phenotype, and (2) the relationship between gene expression and cell function. Students were randomly assigned to one of three repeated quiz or study conditions. For four weeks, students encountered various combinations of multiple-choice (MC) questions and review material related to big ideas 1&2 and/or unrelated lecture topics. Five weeks after the last quiz, all students completed identical MC final exam questions related to both big ideas. To determine the quality of "understanding" assessed by the MC questions, a subset of students also completed a short answer (SA) test prior to the final exam. Both question formats assessed the same knowledge (2 big ideas) at the same level (comprehension and application). Final exam performance supported the finding that repeated retrieval improves long-term retention of knowledge relative to repeated study. Novel to other previous work conducted at the undergraduate level, the current findings suggest that repeated testing affects student retention and understanding of sophisticated concepts. Careful design and analysis of parallel multiple-choice and short answer questions demonstrated that each can target and elicit similar qualities and types of knowledge.
Type:
text; Electronic Dissertation
Keywords:
multiple-choice; Testing effect; undergraduate; Molecular & Cellular Biology; complex ideas; learning
Degree Name:
Ph.D.
Degree Level:
doctoral
Degree Program:
Graduate College; Molecular & Cellular Biology
Degree Grantor:
University of Arizona
Advisor:
Tomanek, Debra J.

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.language.isoenen_US
dc.titleTESTING EFFECT AND COMPLEX COMPREHENSION IN A LARGE INTRODUCTORY UNDERGRADUATE BIOLOGY COURSEen_US
dc.creatorPagliarulo, Christopher Lawrenceen_US
dc.contributor.authorPagliarulo, Christopher Lawrenceen_US
dc.date.issued2011-
dc.publisherThe University of Arizona.en_US
dc.rightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.en_US
dc.description.abstractTraditional undergraduate biology courses are content intensive, requiring students to understand and remember large amounts of information in short periods of time. Yet most students maintain little of the material encountered during their education. Poor knowledge retention is a main cause of academic failure and high undergraduate attrition rates. Characterizing strategies that support robust learning is critical for ensuring student success. One such strategy is testing effect, the observation that repeated testing can improve the fidelity and durability of retained knowledge more than an equal quantity of restudy. Numerous investigations have described the nature and boundaries of testing effect. Very few, however, have characterized its efficacy in actual classroom practice. The current study investigated whether repeated testing or repeated study affected student retention and understanding of complex biological concepts. The study was conducted in a large (~320 students) introductory biology class. All study conditions and assessments were required components of the course. Student retention of two fundamental molecular biology "big ideas" was targeted; (1) the relationship between genotype and phenotype, and (2) the relationship between gene expression and cell function. Students were randomly assigned to one of three repeated quiz or study conditions. For four weeks, students encountered various combinations of multiple-choice (MC) questions and review material related to big ideas 1&2 and/or unrelated lecture topics. Five weeks after the last quiz, all students completed identical MC final exam questions related to both big ideas. To determine the quality of "understanding" assessed by the MC questions, a subset of students also completed a short answer (SA) test prior to the final exam. Both question formats assessed the same knowledge (2 big ideas) at the same level (comprehension and application). Final exam performance supported the finding that repeated retrieval improves long-term retention of knowledge relative to repeated study. Novel to other previous work conducted at the undergraduate level, the current findings suggest that repeated testing affects student retention and understanding of sophisticated concepts. Careful design and analysis of parallel multiple-choice and short answer questions demonstrated that each can target and elicit similar qualities and types of knowledge.en_US
dc.typetexten_US
dc.typeElectronic Dissertationen_US
dc.subjectmultiple-choiceen_US
dc.subjectTesting effecten_US
dc.subjectundergraduateen_US
dc.subjectMolecular & Cellular Biologyen_US
dc.subjectcomplex ideasen_US
dc.subjectlearningen_US
thesis.degree.namePh.D.en_US
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineGraduate Collegeen_US
thesis.degree.disciplineMolecular & Cellular Biologyen_US
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Arizonaen_US
dc.contributor.advisorTomanek, Debra J.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberElfring, Lisa K.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberTax, Frans E.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberCapaldi, Andrew P.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberPimentel, Angel C.en_US
dc.contributor.committeememberTomanek, Debra J.en_US
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