Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Measuring Academic Performance and Learning Gains through Illustrative and Descriptive Notecards in an Undergraduate Human Biology Class for Nonmajors
by McCadden, Emily Rose, M.S., Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, 2015, 149; 1591384
Abstract (Summary)

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the effectiveness of notecards, a study aid, on students’ learning in three sections of a non-majors undergraduate Human Biology course. Moreover, the effectiveness of illustrations as study aids was compared with the effectiveness of descriptions as study aids. Presently, there is not much research on this particular topic, but notecards are a quite common method of studying.

Hypothesis: It was expected that the use of notecards would be more beneficial to student learning than no use at all. Furthermore, it was expected that drawing illustrations would be more effective than writing definitions or descriptions.

Method: Three Human Biology courses taught by the same instructor took part in the study. One class acted as the control in which they did not complete notecards, while the other two courses completed three notecards per unit. Of the two classes, one class completed notecards by drawing illustrations while the other course completed notecards in which students were to write definitions or descriptions. Pre-tests and post-tests were given at the beginning of the semester and the end of the semester, respectively, to identify students’ overall knowledge retention and learning during the semester.

Results: The Paired t-test and Wilcoxon Signed-Rank test showed that there was a statistically significant difference of change scores between the pre-tests and post-tests within each group meaning all sections of the course learned. The Shapiro-Wilk’s test showed that data was normally distributed to continue the One-Way ANOVA tests. The results of the One-Way ANOVA showed that there was a statistically significant difference between all groups, and the Tukey post-hoc test pinpointed the statistical significance of the One-Way ANOVA between the illustration group and the control group. There was neither a statistically significant difference between the illustration group and the description group nor between the description group and the control group. The Effect Size was small-to-medium, ω = 0.044. The Kruskal-Wallis H test performed on the weekly assignment scores showed there was a statistically significant difference between groups. Dunn’s (1964) procedure with a Bonferroni correction for multiple comparisons showed that, generally, there was a statistically significant difference from the control group to the illustration group as well as from the control group to the description group, meaning students in the illustration group and the description group performed better on weekly assignments than the control group. The illustration group performed as well as the description group on weekly assignments. The weekly assignment and exam analysis compared average exam percentages and final exam percentages of each group to average assignment percentages to assess whether there were any certain notecard assignments, descriptive or illustrative, that led to different exam percentages between groups. Exam scores between all groups were similar and there was no specific trend between certain assignments and respective exam scores. Largely, in all groups, there was a positive correlation amongst exam scores and their respective assignments as well as a general positive correlation amongst the assignments and the final exam according to the results of Spearman’s Correlation test. The Kruskal-Wallis H test performed on all five exam scores of each group showed there was not a statistically significant difference between exam scores of each group. By assessing the change in number of correct answers per question between pre-tests and post-tests, it was determined that learning in some specific content areas may have been improved by utilizing notecards (descriptive in some cases and illustrative in other cases) as a study aid whereas learning in other content areas were nearly equivalent across all groups. Student reflection on course evaluations showed a mixed reaction to the notecard assignments with some students regarding them as their least favorite part of the course and still others commenting on how helpful they were to their study.

Conclusions: All groups learned throughout the semester, and learning gains for the illustration group and the description group doubled compared to the control group. Short-term learning based on weekly assignments was increased for both the illustration and description groups, but exam scores were not really affected by the different learning interventions. Exam scores were similar among the three groups, so notecards were neither superior nor inferior to the standard curriculum when it came to academic performance. The student divide concerning using notecards illuminated the idea that all students have different learning styles, and in the case of the present study, some students in one group may have preferred to complete the type of assignment of another group. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Barry, Kelly
Commitee: Abusharbain, Elaine, Krim, Jessica
School: Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
Department: Biological Sciences
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: MAI 54/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Biology, Science education, Higher education
Keywords: Academic performance, Biology, Descriptions, Illustrations, Notecards, Science
Publication Number: 1591384
ISBN: 978-1-321-82726-2
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