OPEN CBE life sciences education | 4 Sep 2014
SL Eddy and KA Hogan
At the college level, the effectiveness of active-learning interventions is typically measured at the broadest scales: the achievement or retention of all students in a course. Coarse-grained measures like these cannot inform instructors about an intervention’s relative effectiveness for the different student populations in their classrooms or about the proximate factors responsible for the observed changes in student achievement. In this study, we disaggregate student data by racial/ethnic groups and first-generation status to identify whether a particular intervention-increased course structure-works better for particular populations of students. We also explore possible factors that may mediate the observed changes in student achievement. We found that a “moderate-structure” intervention increased course performance for all student populations, but worked disproportionately well for black students-halving the black-white achievement gap-and first-generation students-closing the achievement gap with continuing-generation students. We also found that students consistently reported completing the assigned readings more frequently, spending more time studying for class, and feeling an increased sense of community in the moderate-structure course. These changes imply that increased course structure improves student achievement at least partially through increasing student use of distributed learning and creating a more interdependent classroom community.
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