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Enhancing and evaluating student learning by using national certification examinations M.C. Savin* and D.C. Wolf, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville,

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Presentation on theme: "Enhancing and evaluating student learning by using national certification examinations M.C. Savin* and D.C. Wolf, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Enhancing and evaluating student learning by using national certification examinations M.C. Savin* and D.C. Wolf, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR. Exam Participation & Outcomes Beyond the basic sciences, the only common environmental science course that all students completed was Environmental Science, in which most section topics are briefly introduced. Students averaged >60% in 10 sections. ESWS students did relatively well on most of the basic science sections (Table 2, sub-part A; Fig. 1). All students did very well in Ecology (Fig. 1). ESWS students also did relatively well in areas of fate and transport, hazardous waste management, environmental quality standards and water monitoring (Table 2, sub-parts D & E; Fig. 1). Students averaged <60% in 10 sections. ESWS did poorly on data management, public information/regulatory/ ethics, and health & safety (Table 2, sub-parts B & C; Fig. 1), regardless of whether they passed. Data highlight areas needing strengthening among all students. Large differences (>30% difference in average scores) occurred between students who passed versus those who did not in hazardous waste management, earth sciences, chemistry, basic principles of environmental systems, physics, & math & statistics (Fig. 1). Data highlight the importance of developing the fundamentals in basic math and sciences. As with results from the 2008 Fundamentals of Soil Science exam (Savin and Wolf, 2008), GPA and total credit hours were poor predictors of success in the certification exam (Table 1). Students who pass the General Environmental Science exam, complete their B.S. degree, and have 5 years of qualified work experience are eligible for Part II exams in one of four professional practice areas: Air Quality, Water Quality, Waste Management, or Environmental Science, Management, and Policy. Passing Part II results in Certification as a Qualified Environmental Professional. Motivation and Value of Certification Exam Comprehensive examinations are important for program assessment and improvement (Graveel et al., 1990). Certification sets standards to legitimize programs, for credibility, to establish minimal education levels, for public protection and to foster positive public attitudes (eg. Hansen and Binford, 2004; Matlock et al., 2001). In our second year of administering certification exams, students continue to be motivated and find validation through an evaluator external to their curriculum. In the course, students participated in review and self-reflection, cooperative teaching and learning, and synthesis of material from several courses. Assessment is allowing us to gather information of strengths and weaknesses of our ESWS curriculum. Acknowledgments Scholarships were awarded to each student to cover the cost of the study guide and exam. We thank Dr. Robert Bacon, CSES Department Head, & the CSES faculty for supporting the exam as a curriculum assessment tool. We thank Jody Davis and Peter Tomlinson for their assistance, and Margaret Cowburn and IPEP director Diana Kobus for working with us to facilitate exam administration and score generation to use the exam results as an assessment tool. References IPEP [Online]. Available at Verified 26 Oct., 2009.http://www.ipep.org/cred-epi.html Graveel, J.G., V.H. Reich, J.E. Foss, T.W. Banta, D.L. Coffey, J.J. Vorst, and D.C. Wolf Comprehensive examination for undergraduate plant and soil science majors. J. Agron. Educ. 19: Hansen, D.J., and G.D. Binford Nutrient management certification for Delaware: Developing a water quality curriculum. J. Nat. Resour. Life Sci. Educ. 33: Matlock, M.D., G.S. Osborn, W.C. Hession, A.L. Kenimer, and D.E. Storm Ecological engineering: A rationale for standardized curriculum and professional certification in the United States. Ecolog. Engineering 17: Savin, M. C., and D. C. Wolf Putting our undergraduates to the test: Using the SSSA certification exam to assess student learning in soil science. In Annual Meetings Abstracts [CD-ROM]. ASA, CSSA, and SSSA, Madison, WI. Importance of Certification “The (Environmental Professional Intern) EPI Credential quickly signifies to potential employers, existing employers, and others who are looking for qualified recent graduates, that an individual EPI has demonstrated a comprehensive ability to apply their technical education” (IPEP, 2007). The Test: General Environmental Science Exam Offered through the Institute of Professional Environmental Practice (IPEP), Pittsburgh, PA. Additional information can be found at IPEP was formed in 1993 as the certifying organization of the Qualified Environmental Professional and EPI programs. IPEP estimates: ~1500 people have taken the exam. Score to pass is ~70%. The 3-hr, closed book exam consists of multiple choice questions, testing basic knowledge in 20 topic areas with calculations required to solve some problems. Assessment Tools for Undergraduates The Department of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences (CSES) at the University of Arkansas (UA) initiated use of certification exams in 2008 as an assessment tool. CSES Assessment tools: 1.Written and oral exit interviews with graduates 2.5-yr post-graduate surveys of alumni 3.In 2008, initiated the use of certification exams In the spring of 2008, Fundamentals of Soil Science exam was taken. In the spring of 2009, General Environmental Science exam was taken. Objective Determine student learning in environmental science as part of Environmental, Soil, and Water Science B.S. degree in CSES at UA. The Students Environmental, Soil, and Water Science (ESWS) Major 1 of 2 undergraduate majors in the department. Major created in components in 1 major is a challenge for assessment. ESWS has 185 graduates total. Currently 81 ESWS students. Ten students took General Environmental Science exam in 2009 (Table 1). The Review Course Offered as an elective 1-credit course. Current students or recent (within 1 year) graduates. Upper division, undergraduate level credit (ENSC 404v). Course meeting time: Mondays, 3:30-6:30 P.M., 1st 8 weeks of semester 2 co-instructor facilitators. Text: Persaud, N., E. Handel, and M. Elrashidi Exam Preparatory Guide for the Environmental Professional. Air & Waste Management Association, Pittsburgh, PA. 2-4 exam sections were covered each week in student led discussion based on questions assigned from study guide previous week. Practice exam during first & final class period. Each student received a $100 scholarship to reimburse study guide & exam cost. Table 2. Components of General Environmental Science exam administered by the Institute of Professional Environmental Practice and results of 10 ESWS students. Sub-partSub-part title# sections % of test Section average (%) Order # Top 10 Sections 1 (average scores > 63%) Order # Bottom 10 Sections (average scores < 58%) ABasic Sciences Ecology (88%) Earth Science/Geology (68%) Chemistry (68%) Toxicology/Risk Assessment (63%) 13Physics (57%) BMathematics317484Environmental Economics (70%)20 16 Data Management (22%) Mathematics & Statistics (52%) CEnvironmental Science, Management & Policy Environmental Quality Standards (74%) Basic Principles Environ. Systems (58%) Cross-Media Impacts of Pollution (56%) Health & Safety (42%) Public Information/Community & Regulatory Relations/Ethics (48%) DWaste/Pollution Management, Treatment & Disposal Hazardous Materials/Waste Management & Transport (78%) Fate & Transport of Environ. Contaminants (70%) Air Pollution Control (65%) Waste Minimization, Recycling, Reuse (53%) Principles of Water, Soil & Solid Waste Treatment & Residuals Disposal (50%) EMonitoring29628Surface & Groundwater Monitoring (66%) 12Air Emissions Monitoring & Inventories (58%) Student statisticsStudents who passed Students who did not pass Number73 Class standingGraduate, Senior, Junior Senior, Junior Total undergraduate credits completed (hours) 76 – Cumulative grade point average on 4.0 scale 2.6 – – Numbers preceding section titles correspond to placement in Fig. 1. Fig. 1. Average section scores for the General Environmental Science exam taken in the spring 2009 by 10 ESWS students. Scores are presented for all students (n = 10), students who passed (n = 7), and students who did not pass (n = 3). Top 10 sections Bottom 10 sections


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