Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Chemistry

Major Professor

Jennifer Lewis, Ph.D.

Keywords

Assessment, Evaluation, Chemical education, Science education, Non-majors science curriculum

Abstract

This work conducts an evaluation of a non-majors science curriculum named Molecules of Life (MOL) that aims to provide effective science education to undergraduate students who are not majoring in scientific disciplines. As part of the process of developing an assessment plan for MOL, three related studies were undertaken in order to help us choose assessment instruments for MOL. The first study examined the validity of student evaluations of teaching. The second study investigated the Test of Logical Thinking (TOLT) and Group Assessment of Logical Thinking (GALT), two widely-used instruments for measuring formal reasoning ability. GALT is very similar to TOLT, but contains two additional concrete items. Focusing on the functioning of these two items, we added them into TOLT and created a new test called "TOLT+2".

We then compared TOLT with TOLT+2 in terms of reliability, discriminatory power, potential item bias, and predicting students at-risk in a general chemistry course. The two concrete items were found to provide no advantage in these aspects. In the third study, we performed a direct comparison between TOLT and GALT as intact instruments in general chemistry and in preparatory chemistry. GALT showed no advantage over TOLT for both general and preparatory chemistry in terms of reliability, discriminatory power, potential item bias, and predicting at-risk students. GALT has more frequently occurring, potentially biased items, while TOLT is tenably a less biased test. Based on the results from the three studies and input from faculty, an assessment plan was developed and refined for the MOL project at two summer workshops that faculty from all eight institutions participated in. Subsequently, a systematic evaluation for MOL was carried out as a fourth study.

We found evidence that students learned the enzyme content from the MOL courses at all participating institutions. We also found the MOL curriculum can meaningfully improve students' spatial ability. MOL was able to reduce the gap between high-spatial-ability and low-spatial-ability students at most institutions. Because of the critical link of spatial ability to science learning, this result is very promising for our efforts to move towards "science for all".

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