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‘INCENTIVISED READING’-USING MASTERING BIOLOGY TO ENCOURAGE EARLIER ENGAGEMENT BY STUDENTS Louise Beard School of Biological Sciences University of Essex.

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Presentation on theme: "‘INCENTIVISED READING’-USING MASTERING BIOLOGY TO ENCOURAGE EARLIER ENGAGEMENT BY STUDENTS Louise Beard School of Biological Sciences University of Essex."— Presentation transcript:

1 ‘INCENTIVISED READING’-USING MASTERING BIOLOGY TO ENCOURAGE EARLIER ENGAGEMENT BY STUDENTS Louise Beard School of Biological Sciences University of Essex

2 Transition between college and Uni Old A-level system:  Units with continuous assessment and multiple retakes University:  Students need to become independent learners  Self-motivated and organised

3 Problems faced by HE lecturers  Large first year teaching groups (250+ students)  Not possible to give individual attention  Very differing levels of ability and understanding from students coming onto course  Module has to get all students to the same level of understanding, in order for them to be able to progress

4 Problems faced by new students  Social and personal changes, upheaval  Complex timetables and multiple coursework deadlines  Possible homesickness

5 Teaching in large groups  BS101 First year molecular cell biology (280 students)  A core module: most students have done A-level biology, but not all  Essential text: Biology 9 th Ed, Campbell & Reece How can we monitor engagement in such a large group?

6 Structure of module and rationale  2 exams (Jan MCQ and Summer written paper: 67%)  4 practicals: 33% coursework  One practical dropped; alternative assessment needed?  Engagement, progress, identifying problems?

7 The Active learning approach  Use of technology such as Virtual Learning Environments (VLE)  Promotes ‘student-centred learning’: students are responsible for their own education  By making students engage early with the work, can we improve retention and engagement?

8 Mastering Biology- Pearson VLE “The Mastering platform is the most effective and widely used tutorial, homework and assessment system for the sciences” “Engages and motivates students to learn” “Provides students personalised coaching and feedback” “Quickly monitors student learning” (Similar systems are available from other publishers….)

9 How does it work?  Lecturers can be set up as an Instructor  Then you can log in, create an assignment and add activities, tutorials, MCQs from a database of 1000’s of questions  Students purchase the book and use the code provided, plus your unique course code, to register onto your course

10 Example question

11 My use of Mastering Biology  5 assignments created, each one covering 2 topics, taking ~60 min to complete  Assignment open for 1 week, do not need to complete in one sitting  Original purpose was to consolidate learning from the lectures

12 Assessment of assignments  All assignments are automatically marked and graded, exported to Excel  Total number of marks from all 5 assignments was converted to an overall percentage  This replaced one practical (8.25% of module)  Rewarded with coursework marks for engaging

13 Participation of students in each compulsory Mastering Biology assignment

14 Participation of students in each optional Mastering Biology assignment

15 Does it work?

16 Student achievement and perceptions  Total marks for all assignments were mostly in the 75-95% range  Students were surveyed in the final assignment  Nearly all students agreed that the system had helped them to understand the lecture material  Over 90% conceded that they would probably NOT have completed all assignments if not compulsory

17 Do you think you have learnt more through the online assignments, than through lectures alone?

18 Benefits of Mastering Biology  Students perceive that they have learnt more, and basic exam results data supports that  Students get earlier feedback on their performance through the online system  They can ‘bank’ easy coursework marks along the way  Encourages the students to work continuously rather than leaving everything til end of term/year exams, which may be too late

19 Added staff benefits  My (anecdotal) data reveals that each year there are approx students that don’t engage with this work  Approx half of these drop out of the course before the end of the first year  The remaining half continue, but are often weak students or poorly organised in their 2 nd year too  Now, these early strugglers or those not engaging can be identified and can followed up

20 Future interventions: can a more proactive approach help the transition?  For me, the system is now multi-purpose: 1. Encourages earlier engagement with work 2. Underpins knowledge delivered in lectures 3. Identifies problem students at an early stage and can offer them extra support  Students may benefit from individual attention at this crucial early transition into HE


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