New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Mass and energy balances is the common first course in chemical engineering (ChE) programs across the nation. This foundational course is essential for technical understanding, and thus, high concept mastery among students is desired. Highly variable student performance (in the form of grades, the widely accepted means of assessing student mastery) at a large Midwestern University suggests, however, that concept mastery is not always attained.
Learning styles are one way to describe how individuals gather and process information. The Felder-Silverman learning styles model consists of four dimensions, with two opposing preferences in each dimension that categorize individuals based on how they best process, perceive, receive, and understand information. Originally, our study focused on uncovering any correlations between student learning styles, self-efficacy, attitudes/perceptions, and performance in an undergraduate material balances course, in an effort to better understand our student population and provide a basis for curricular development. We categorized the learning styles engaged by exam problems of five instructors in their presentation and solution. While we discovered several instances where students of one learning style preference either outperformed or underperformed relative to others, we made an even more interesting observation while categorizing the learning styles exploited by exam problems of different instructors. In most cases, there was little variation between the learning styles exploited by individual instructors over the course of a semester. However, in the two instances where average student performance was statistically lower than the other three instructors’ classes, the two instructors exhibited similar deviations from the other three in the types of learning styles they over- or under-exploited on exams. Further, the same two faculty had, on average, a greater number of questions and concepts on each exam than the other three instructors. An end-of-term concept inventory revealed no statistically significant difference in students’ conceptual mastery between an average performance and low performance section, suggesting that performance may not be a good indicator of concept mastery in this situation.
We also observed that students in all classes consistently underperformed on questions that were categorized as “global” or “intuitive.” It is arguable that at this introductory level, it is expected that students would have underdeveloped global or intuitive skills, however, if these skills do not improve over the course of their education that is cause for concern. For this reason, in future work we will be tracking students through their curricular progression in order to better understand the development of their intuitive and global skills, and assess the need for changes to the existing curriculum to foster those skills. Further, we are interested in tracking student attrition, and specifically curious as to whether students from the “underperforming” material balances classes are more likely to leave the ChE program, regardless of concept mastery. If so, this may suggest a need to develop more homogeneous course goals and means to achieve them. After multiple semesters of evaluation, we will propose a new course model that ensures a more consistent experience in this course, and hopefully a better conceptual foundation for all students.
Miskioglu, E. (2016, June), Unseen Influences on Student Performance: Instructor Assessment Styles Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27108
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