MyReadinessTest™ educator study investigates ways to identify student preparedness at Waubonsee Community College

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MyReadinessTest™ educator study investigates ways to identify student preparedness at Waubonsee Community College

Key Findings

  • Students who scored above the mean on the MyReadinessTest pre-diagnostic test had a significantly higher course average than students who scored below the mean and did not complete the study plan remediation.
  • Students who scored above the mean on the MyReadinessTest pre-diagnostic test had a higher course average than students who scored below the mean and completed the study plan remediation, but it was not statistically significant.
  • The instructor found that the MyReadinessTest pre-diagnostic test can provide information at the beginning of the semester on student preparedness coming into the course.

School name
Waubonsee Community College, Sugar Grove, IL

Course name
Anatomy and Physiology I

Course format
Face-to-face

Course materials
MyReadinessTest™, MasteringA&P®, Human Anatomy & Physiology, by Marieb; Human Anatomy & Physiology Laboratory Manual, by Marieb and Mitchell

Timeframe
Spring–Fall 2015

Submitted by
Sheela Vemu, Instructor

Setting

  • Type: two-year public institution started in August 1966
  • Enrollment: 14,375 credit students and 2,413 noncredit students
  • Full-time enrollment: 28 percent for credit students
  • Average age: 24.5 for credit students and 43 for noncredit students
  • Retention 2012–13: 68 percent for full-time students and 42 percent for part-time students

About the Course

Instructor Sheela Vemu has taught Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) and Microbiology for 10 years in the community college system. She has an interest in online teaching and digital resources, and how they can be used as a way to communicate with students and to help students remediate and learn.

She teaches Anatomy and Physiology I, the first course in a two-semester sequence. It is a four-credit combined lecture and lab course designed for pre-nursing students. A&P I and II are a prerequisite for admission into the Nursing program. Because admission is competitive, it’s recommended that students earn a B or above to enhance their chance for admission to the program. Students are required to have completed high school biology and chemistry or the equivalents within the prior five years before enrolling in A&P I. The course consists of two, 75-minute lecture periods each week, and one three-hour lab.

A&P I begins with an orientation to the human body, followed by a brief review of basic biochemistry and the structure and function of cells, including the major units of study involving tissues, the skeletal, muscular and nervous systems and the special senses. Laboratory work utilizes models, microscopes, animal dissections, and human cadavers.

The objectives for the A&P course are developed from the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) Learning Outcomes Project. The purpose of the project is to provide a set of goals and learning outcomes for a human anatomy and physiology two-semester course sequence intended to prepare students for a variety of clinical and academic programs.  Upon successful completion of the A&P courses, the student will be able to:

  • Develop a vocabulary of appropriate terminology to effectively communicate information related to anatomy and physiology;
  • Recognize the anatomical structures and explain the physiological functions of body systems;
  • Recognize and explain the principle of homeostasis and the use of feedback loops to control physiological systems in the human body;
  • Use anatomical knowledge to predict physiological consequences, use knowledge of function to predict the features of anatomical structures, and explain interrelationships within and between anatomical and physiological systems of the body;
  • Synthesize ideas to make a connection between knowledge of anatomy and physiology and real-world situations, including healthy lifestyle decisions and homeostatic imbalances;
  • Interpret graphs of anatomical and physiological data; and
  • Approach and examine issues related to anatomy and physiology from an evidence-based perspective.

Challenges and Goals

Vemu believes that students who do well in A&P I tend to be those who come into the course with a solid foundation of the skills and prerequisite knowledge needed to progress in the course. That generally means that students have taken one of the following:

  • A&P I in college, but are repeating it, so they’ve picked up some concepts the first time around
  • Principles of Biology
  • A&P I in high school

Because there is no placement test for the course, Vemu finds it difficult to know how prepared a student is coming into the course. It may not be clear until after the first exam, which may be too late for some students. Vemu is also interested in exploring and understanding the role of digital resources in helping students succeed in the course. She adopted MasteringA&P and MyReadinessTest in 2014 to allow her to begin to address these goals.

MyReadinessTest provides detailed information on each students’ mastery and application of prerequisite essential reading, writing, and math skills, and on core skills in anatomy and physiology, chemistry, and physics coursework. The goal was to administer a MyReadinessTest pre-diagnostic test at the start of the semester in an attempt to identify those students who may be less prepared coming into the course. She also believed that the MyReadinessTest study plan, which is generated based on each student’s performance on the pre-diagnostic test, would provide additional personalized remediation, along with the assigned MasteringA&P homework.

Given the challenges and goals identified, Vemu engaged in this study to begin to evaluate the relationship between (a) her students’ performance on the MyReadinessTest pre-diagnostic test and study plan, and (b) course performance. While MasteringA&P was in use, the focus of this study was on the data from MyReadinessTest in an attempt to gather information on student preparedness for the course.

Implementation

The course components for A&P I include:

Exams: Every student is required to take all exams, both lecture and lab, in order to receive credit for taking the course. Only one lecture exam can be made up, but students receive a 10 percent penalty. Lab practicals and online quizzes cannot be made up. An optional final exam is given at the end of the course, which can be used to replace the lowest lecture exam grade. The optional final exam grade cannot be used to substitute for a missed exam that was never made up, or for a grade of 0 on an exam.  Exam 1 is administered in MasteringA&P. The other four lecture and five lab exams are administered via paper and pencil.

Quizzes: Lab quizzes are administered in MasteringA&P. These are timed, but students may use notes and the textbook during the quiz.

MasteringA&P homework: MasteringA&P homework is designed for formative assessment to help students understand what concepts they have not grasped and should continue to study. The untimed homework contains 10–15 questions per assignment, including reading, fill-in-the-blank, concept, and diagram. There is a five percent late homework penalty per day.

MyReadinessTest: Students do not receive course credit for completing the MyReadinessTest (MRT) pre-diagnostic test or the study plan. The MRT study plan is generated after the pre-diagnostic test is completed, and students may continue to remediate by working on the study plan until they reach a score of 100 percent. A student who earns 100 percent on the study plan during the semester receives five extra credit points. The MRT pre-diagnostic test is to be completed during the first two weeks of the semester.

Extra credit: Some assignments are given for extra credit, and lab exams contain extra credit questions that will be added into that exam grade.

Assessments

  • 80%       Exams (four lecture and five lab)
  • 10%       Online quizzes/exam 1
  • 10%       MasteringA&P homework

Results and Data

An analysis of the MyReadinessTest (MRT) pre-diagnostic test, the MRT study plan, and the final course scores was conducted. This analysis did not include students who withdrew from the course or students who completed the course but did not take the MRT pre-diagnostic test. Spring and Fall 2015 data were combined for this analysis since the pre-diagnostic test and course assessment were the same.

The mean score for the MRT pre-diagnostic test was 56 percent. Figure l shows the average course score for students grouped according to their MRT pre-diagnostic test score (at or below the mean, or above the mean). Students who scored above the mean on the pre-diagnostic test earned a course average score of 82 percent, while students who scored at or below the MRT mean earned a 71 percent in the course, a statistically significant difference at p<.05.

While the results indicate that students who scored lower on the MRT pre-diagnostic test tended to have lower course scores, further analysis of the data shows this does not hold true for each student. No student earned 100 percent on the MRT pre-diagnostic test which generates the starting study plan score, but 44 students (74 percent) continued to work in the study plan until they earned 100 percent.

The MRT study plan and course performance data were then evaluated. Students were divided into four groups as follows:

  • Group 1: MRT pre-diagnostic test score ≤ mean of 56 percent; final MRT study plan score < 100 percent
  • Group 2: MRT pre-diagnostic test score ≤ mean of 56 percent; final MRT study plan score = 100 percent
  • Group 3: MRT pre-diagnostic test score > mean of 56 percent; final MRT study plan score < 100 percent
  • Group 4: MRT pre-diagnostic test score > mean of 56 percent; final MRT study plan score = 100 percent

Figure 2 shows the following results:

  • Group 1 students earned an average score of 25 percent on the MRT study plan.
  • Group 1 students had a 15 percentage point lower course average than group 2 students, however, it was not statistically significant (p=.06).
  • Groups 3 and 4 students had a significantly higher course average than group 1 students (p<.05).
  • Groups 3 and 4 students had a higher course average than group 2 students, however, it was not significant (p=.32 and p=.17).
  • Group 4 students had a two percentage point higher course average than group 3 students, however, it was not significant (p<.32).

Only six of the 33 students who earned higher than the mean of 56 percent on the pre-diagnostic test earned less than 100 percent on the study plan (Group 3). Those six students had a study plan average score of 81 percent.

While the scores on the MRT pre-diagnostic test can help an instructor identify which students may be coming into the course less prepared, the students who scored lower on the MRT pre-diagnostic test, but who remediated using the MRT study plan, tended to earn higher scores in the course than students earning comparable scores on the pre-diagnostic test who did not complete the study plan remediation. Other factors such as motivation and study skills may be impacting results, and further study is recommended to better understand the findings.

Course score based on MyReadinessTest pre-diagnostic test score

MRT_Waubonsee_Figure1 (1)

Figure 1.  Final Course Score Based on Mean MyReadinessTest Pre-diagnostic Test Score, at or Below Mean MRT (n=28) and Above the Mean MRT (n=33), Spring–Fall 2015

Course score based on MyReadinessTest pre-diagnostic test score and study plan completion

MRT_Waubonsee_Figure2

Figure 2. Students Grouped Above and Below Mean MyReadinessTest Pre-diagnostic Test Score and by MyReadinessTest Study Plan Score, Spring and Fall 2015 Combined. Group 1 (n=11), Group 2 (n=17), Group 3 (n=6), Group 4 (n=27)

The Student Experience

During the Spring and Fall 2015 semesters, students were asked about their experience using MyReadinessTest on an end-of-semester survey. In Fall 2015, 35 students answered the post-semester survey (80 percent); for Spring 2015, 21 students answered the post-semester survey (84 percent).

Since the MyReadinessTest pre-diagnostic assignment provided students with information on how well prepared they were for the course and gave them a personalized study plan, students were asked, “How did the MyReadinessTest pre-diagnostic test and study plan impact how you studied?” Responses included:

  • “[It was like a] refresher course. Taught me things I didn’t quite get before.”
  • “Gave me visuals to study whenever I wanted.”
  • “It showed me where I struggled so I could better myself.”
  • “See what I had to work on.”
  • “It gave me an idea of where I was at for this science course.”

Conclusion

Vemu believes that it’s important for both the instructor and the student to understand how well prepared one is coming into the course, and to provide each with digital resources and online tools to help with individual remediation. Vemu added MyReadinessTest to her course to administer a pre-diagnostic test to identify those students who may not have the needed skills for the course and to provide a personalized study plan for each. Based on the results of the study, Vemu found that the MRT pre-diagnostic test can be used as an indicator for students less prepared for the course, and that the MRT study plan can be a beneficial remediation resource for students. Vemu plans to continue to evaluate her results to better understand student performance and will make adjustments to course content as needed.

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