|Arizona Board of Regents: Learner-Centered Education Course Redesign Initiative
Arizona State University
Course Title: Women in Society
The Tempe campus of Arizona State University (ASU) plans to redesign Women in Society and Women in Contemporary Society, two high-enrollment courses that provide an introduction to majors and fulfill general education requirements. Both courses provide an overview of the Women's Studies discipline and an overview of issues facing women in contemporary American society. Women in Society, enrolling ~1400 students annually, was designed as the lower division introductory course. Women in Contemporary Society, with an annual enrollment of about 1000 students, was designed as an entry course for transfer students and juniors. The courses are generally taught in a large-lecture format with section sizes ranging from 100 to 200 students. Student learning is assessed through machine-scored exams and a personal reflection paper. Women in Contemporary Society students write an additional paper. The courses are taught by a mix of full-time tenure track faculty, lecturers, instructors, and faculty associates based on a common list of topics.
The traditional course faces four main challenges. First, the course does not include any recitation or lab work where students are asked to engage in higher order thinking and apply concepts to real-life examples. Second, the students have a broad range of skill in understanding the material. The large class size makes it difficult to provide rapid personalized feedback. Third, ASU serves a diverse group of students. Approximately one quarter of the students in the courses are men and about one third are students of color. Women's Studies courses offer students the opportunity to connect to the curriculum in a way that is both academic and personal, which can have a positive impact on student retention. Fourth, the total student enrollment in all Women's and Gender Studies courses has increased by almost 50% in the last six years. The department wants to be able to increase the number of students served without adding significant new faculty.
ASU plans to use the Replacement Model in the redesigned course. Part of the lecture time will be replaced with required online student activities and discussion. They will work in small groups, participating in discussions around course topics and complete individual and group activities such as virtual field trips or examining real data on women's issues. To increase student feedback, Blackboard will be used to deliver a series of required, low-stakes quizzes, and personal response systems in the remaining lectures will be used to provide more in-class feedback.
The redesigned course will enhance quality in several ways by increasing student engagement with the course. Students will be asked to actively interact with the material and their peers. They will learn to apply course concepts to real-life examples. Student progress will be monitored. They will receive more frequent, individualized feedback which should improve their learning before the high stakes exams.
Student learning will be assessed by comparing scores on common exams from the traditional sections with the redesigned sections. The assessment effort will also examine and compare student success and completion rates between the traditional and redesigned courses. Finally, the team will also assess affective measures in terms of student perceptions of their own engagement in the course and activities.
The redesign will allow ASU to increase the number of students served from 2400 to 2800 by increasing section size to 400 from a range of 100-200 students as well as by changing the mix of instructional staff. Some full-time faculty will be replaced through the use of additional graduate teaching assistants and undergraduate learning assistants to facilitate the online activities. The redesign will reduce the cost-per-student from $78 to $57, a 27% decrease. The cost savings will be used to shift faculty time to other teaching and research responsibilities in the program. Faculty time is needed elsewhere both to serve growing student demand and to staff a new doctoral program in Gender Studies, which begins in academic year 2007-2008.
The team completed several assessments comparing traditional sections with redesigned sections taught by three faculty members. The spring 2007 traditional course had three written assignments, one short paper (3-5 pages), a midterm and a final exam. The fall 2008 redesigned courses had 12 online assignments, a midterm and a final exam.
The first assessment compared midterm and final exam grades. In each of the fall 2008 redesigned sections, the average midterm grade was higher than the average of the spring 2007 traditional course.
Final exam grades in the fall 2008 redesigned courses were also higher than in the spring 2007 traditional course.
A t test showed that the higher midterm scores of combined sections (Tuesday and Thursdays) for course redesign A and B and combined sections (Monday and Wednesday) for course redesign C were statistically significant. However, the midterm scores for the course redesign A Tuesday section was not statistically significantly better than the midterm scores in the spring 2007 traditional course. T tests for the higher final exam scores indicated statistically significant results in all redesigned courses.
The second assessment compared completion/retention results.
Although students did better on exams, low assignment scores including assignments not completed impacted the final grades.
Other Impacts on Students
The redesign achieved cost savings by increasing class size from 150-200 to 400 and reducing the number of sections from nine to four. The instructional mix was changed to include fewer regular faculty and more GTAs and ULAs. The cost-per-student was reduced from $78 in the traditional course to $57 in the redesign. The cost savings will allow the department to accommodate new student growth during a time of retrenchment and to meet the demands of a new graduate program.
Pedagogical Improvement Techniques
Cost Savings Techniques
The redesigned courses will be very easy to sustain and to replicate for new faculty. This redesign allowed the program to standardize its survey courses. In the past, each instructor taught her own version, and the results were often uneven. Now the course is delivered consistently. The redesigns were so successful that the team may adapt the model for some other large classes. To achieve even better results, instructors will emphasize the importance of completing all assignments.