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Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...
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Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating Closer Student ...

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  • 1. Just-in-Time Teaching in Genetics: Creating an Interactive Teaching and Active Learning Environment Using Blackboard Learning System™ Yunqiu (Daniel) Wang, Ph.D. Department of Biology University of Miami Spring, 2005
  • 2. Introduction Genetics provides the explanation for how organisms pass on phenotypical traits to their descendants and how each individual expresses those traits throughout its life. It thus deals with the central problem of biology. BIL250 “Genetics” course therefore is one of the four core courses required for all biology majors at the Department of Biology at University of Miami. Genetics is a challenging subject which involves many symbols, structures, and fairly complicated processes which interact in a variety ways. It can be a humbling experience for students who take this intense course for the first time. Often, the lowest grade received by a student may be in genetics, and it is not unusual for some students to develop a fearful feeling about this subject. Marie Curie once said: “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” Genetics is not an exception. As a teacher and a geneticist myself, I feel obligated to help students to overcome this fear, and become successful in this crucial and challenging course. To achieve this goal, I not only have to work hard on the course material, but also equip myself with an effective pedagogy to teach it to my students. A review of the literature on science pedagogy reveals three main successful strategies: (1) Learning requires active practice. Extensive research in education has confirmed that deep conceptual learning requires interactive engagement and increased student study time (National Research Council (NRC), 2000; Udovic, 2002; and Bybee of National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA), 2002, Novak and Middendorf, 2004). (2) Learning is actively constructed from prior knowledge. Research has also revealed that, in order to learn, a student must actively construct new knowledge from prior knowledge and their current state of understanding. If students’ initial understanding is not engaged, they mail fail to grasp the new concepts they are taught, or they may revert to their preconceptions once outside the classroom (NRC 2000). This theory of learning, termed ‘constructivism’, was developed by Piaget and co-researchers and is well-supported in the research literature (NRC, 2000; Bybee, 2002). (3) Learning requires prompt feedback. A large number of research papers have also shown that learning is best achieved when students are quickly provided with opportunities for formative assessment-feedback on their prior knowledge so that they can adjust or clarify their thinking (AAAS 1989, NRC 2000). However, prompt and frequent assessment-feedback has been largely missing from science classroom, particularly in large lecture classes such as genetics, due to the excessive amount of time required for such an exercise. Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) has recently been widely adopted as a pedagogy to bring these effective strategies into the classroom. To be more specific, JiTT is an Internet- based technique for teaching and learning that improves student success in college science courses by enhancing and extending classroom instruction via the Web. The essence of JiTT is the feedback loop between the Web and the classroom. Faculty use the Internet to post course materials and Web-based warm-up assignments before class, and students use materials on the Web to prepare for each class. The faculty member in turn modifies the lecture plan based on student responses to the warm-up assignment. This creates an interactive classroom environment that emphasizes active learning and 1
  • 3. cooperative problem solving, decreasing the reliance on the traditional lecture. JiTT was originally developed at Indiana University and Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) and the United States Air Force Academy to help students and faculty in physics (Novak et al 1999). It has since been expanded to other disciplines, including biology, geology, chemistry, psychology, and math, as well as in nursing, history, economics, and anthropology. JiTT has been adopted by over 200 faculty members at 80 institutions worldwide (Marrs and Novak, 2004). I describe here how I applied the Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) pedagogy to my genetics course at Department of Biology of the University of Miami. This class is especially challenging, because it commonly has an enrollment of over 200 students. My preliminary assessment of this approach is positive, including increased interactions between students and faculty, improvements in student study habits, and a positive correlation between the student’s participation frequency of JiTT exercises and their cognitive gains as measured by test scores. How JiTT was used in BIL250 “Genetics” course: BIL 250 “Genetics” is a three-credit course that has been traditionally taught as a lecture- based class. Last fall was the first time I incorporated features of JiTT into this course using the Web-based teaching software – Blackboard. Thanks to the support of our local Blackboard expert, Mr. Bill Vilberg of the Instructional Advancement Center at UM, it did not take me long to modify the online genetic course material provided by the publisher (Prentice Hall) and incorporate it into the UM Blackboard course Web site (www.courses.miami.edu). This fully-loaded Blackboard course system allows me to not only enhance student’s learning by posting pre-lecture study material for each course topic; but also provides an online tool in the form of pre-lecture quizzes that allow me to assess how well they understand this material before each class. The pre-lecture study will form the students’ initial understanding of the subject. The web page that guides the pre-lecture study for each specific topic includes the following items: A summary of the chapter concepts, the PowerPoint slides illustrating these concepts, the scientific articles, and web resources related to this subject. Sample web pages I have created containing the pre-lecture study material are shown in Figure 1 ~ 3. 2
  • 4. Figure 1. (A course chapter web page) Figure 2. (Additional study material) 3
  • 5. Figure 3. (Additional Web resources) I design the pre-lecture quiz in order to assess the depth of a student’s pre-lecture study and initial understanding of each topic. This also provides instant assessment feedbacks to me and students. The pre-lecture quiz, the answer key, and the analysis for the questions are posted to the blackboard system. A sample pre-lecture quiz with instructions are shown in figure 4 ~ 6. 4
  • 6. Figure 4. (The instructions to take the pre-lecture quiz) Figure 5. (Pre-lecture quiz question, multiple choices formats) 5
  • 7. Figure 6. (Pre-lecture quiz question, essay and fill in the blank format) The Blackboard online test system has a dynamic control feature which makes it possible for me to determine when the online quiz is available and how long the quiz will remain available for students. I usually make this quiz available until few hours before class time. Students who submit their online quizzes before the time it is due receive a few credit points (not more than 2.5% of their total grade points). This feature exerts another incentive for students to actively participate in this learning exercise. A sample web page illustrating the test control function is shown in figure 7 ~ 8. 6
  • 8. Figure 7. (The time control feature of the online quiz) Figure 8. (The feedback control of the online quiz) 7
  • 9. The student’s quiz is graded automatically by the system. The correct answer and the analysis of the quiz questions are immediately available for students after they submit their quiz. With this prompt feedback, students can determine how well they understand the pre-lecture study material. They can choose to work more on this material or bring the questions they have trouble with to the discussion in the classroom. The prompt nature of the online assessment is especially powerful in my genetics class with a large enrollment. It removes the barrier caused by excessive amount of time traditionally required of a professor to achieve such frequent assessment-feedbacks in large enrollment courses. The sample assessment web pages sent back to students are shown in figure 9 ~ 10. Figure 9. (Grade assessment, multiple choices formats) Figure 10. (Grade assessment, essay format) 8
  • 10. The results of the pre-lecture quiz from the entire class are also delivered back to me electronically. This allows me to form the framework for the next classroom lecture. Such a feedback loop provides me with a fairly detailed profile of the student audience, which makes my lecture more targeted and effective. A sample web page illustrating the assessment statistics is shown in figure 11 ~ 12. Figure 11. (Class assessment stats and the stats on one multiple choice question) 9
  • 11. Figure 12. (Class assessment stats on one essay question, showing 27 unanswered responses and the first seven responses from seven students.) These pre-lecture, out-of-class assignments increase student study time and demand a great deal of active thinking on the part of students. Such web pages, enriched with the latest research articles, peppered with URLs to interesting material on the web have proven themselves to be an effective factor in teaching my genetic course. Setting such high but reachable goals for student performance increases achievement for both well- and poorly- motivated students. By completing pre-lecture quizzes, students enter the classroom ready to actively engage in my lectures and enable them to learn more. Since my lecture content and emphasis are modified based on students’ understanding from the feedback loop, students have a feeling of ownership of this interactive lesson. They are not just passive listeners anymore. They also have a comfortable feeling that I am aware of their needs as they unfold through the semester. 10
  • 12. Assessment: Effect of JiTT on student learning and student success JiTT increases the qualities of interactions between me and students One of the “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (Chickering and Gamson, 1987) is to encourage interaction between students and faculty in and out of classes. The key feature of JiTT is the pre-lecture quiz, which provides many talking points between me and students during their office hour visits and classroom discussions. With pre-lecture quiz questions in hand, students could both help their peers to work on these questions, and also pose their comments on these questions to me during class. Some students even write e-mails to discuss certain pre-lecture quiz questions with me. These pre-lecture quiz questions make students more confident because they know what to ask and my answers are much more targeted as I help them. As a result, it has been very common to see students raising their hands and joining me in the discussion on the course material during class, as well as after class. The following are a sample of e-mail messages from students, discussing the application of the course concepts they encountered through taking the pre-lecture quizzes. The material they asked me about is not covered in the textbook, but their curiosity and interest have been increased beyond the simple goal of getting an “A” in this class. This change of perspective by the students from grade-based goals to the goal of understanding is what I’m trying to accomplish with this JiTT approach. It seems that this strategy is working at least on some students. Quoting "Adam Greenberg" <A.Greenberg@umiami.edu>: > Dear Dr. Wang, > My name is Adam Greenberg and I am in your Genetics 250 course. I have a > question pertaining to the p53 gene and cancer, which I thought about as I > read the 8th chapter. Our book says that mutations in the p53 gene have been > found to be specific reasons for the uncontrollable growth of certain > cancers, as the p53 gene regulates the G1/S checkpoint of mitosis. I have an > idea which I'm sure has been tested before, but I was just wondering if it > would work.. Would it be possible to select the DNA that codes for the p53 > gene and translocate it into a plasmid, upon which it could then be injected > into cancerous cells and, henceforth begin proper cellular regulation once > again in the newly replicated daughter cells of the cancer cells?... just > wondering > > Adam Greenberg > A.Greenberg1@umiami.edu My response: Omitted. Quoting "Javier J. Lopez" <Javi_j_lopez@mac.com>: > dr. wang 11
  • 13. > thanks for the explanation of problem 9, I appreciated that you > discussed that little doubt that I had on the problem. > also, I am very curious about the cell mutation that happens because of > smoking tobacco. I think a lot of people know that it causes cancer, > but the actual reason of why smoking causes mutation is not known to me > at least. What exactly happens to the lung cells that makes them > mutate, is it the heat caused by the burning or the chemicals of the > tobacco interacting with the cells? I am very interested in this area > of mutation and cancer, and would like to understand what happens in a > molecular level with the smoking of tobacco. > Thanks a lot, > Javier Lopez-Araujo My response: Omitted. JiTT improves student study habits Research has shown that students learn more efficiently and retain information longer when they study regularly. They retain much less information from a single “cramming” study session (NRC, 2000). Unfortunately, this inefficient “cramming” is the study habit most college students use, including students in my genetics course, before the adoption of JiTT approach. To counter this bad habit, I posted 27 online pre-lecture quizzes for the 27 chapters of the textbook throughout last semester. In order to earn the extra credit points (2.5% of the total credit points), students had to take at least 22 online pre-lecture quizzes and submit them on time. This strategy prevented them from lagging behind and encouraged them to study regularly and frequently. If they used the “cramming” method, they would lose the extra credit points as well as performing poorly on exams. At the end of the semester, students made the following unsolicited comments on JiTT method: Quoting "Sarah Fuchs" <s.fuchs@umiami.edu>: > Hello, >… > Regarding your class, the prelecture quizzes were very helpful in your > class. It enabled me to test my knowledge on the material in a very > effective way, and it also aided me in organizing the material in my head a > little better. Also the slides were very helpful in your class because it > allowed me to better focus during the lectures. Overall your class was > structured very well and the material was presented effectively. If I ever > had a question you were available for help. > > Thank you for your time, > Sarah Fuchs > s.fuchs@umiami.edu 12
  • 14. There are also some anonymous comments on the online pre-lecture quiz collected from the open–ended response form from the end-of-term faculty evaluation: 13
  • 15. JiTT increases student’s cognitive gains measured by test scores To measure the effect of JiTT on student’ cognitive gains in this genetics course, I did a regression analysis between the participation frequency of students in the pre-lecture quizzes and their cumulative test grade average (three regular exams and a final comprehensive exam). This excluded the extra credits awarded to them for participating in the pre-lecture quizzes. I found a positive correlation between the participation frequency of students in the JiTT exercise and their test grade, i.e. the higher the frequency of student’s participation, the higher their test grades (figure 13). The “goodness of fit” value is R2 = 0.221, (P = 1.96 X 10-13), which means if students participate in every JiTT exercise, the odds of them achieving a higher grade will be increased by 22.1%. Figure 13. (A regression analysis between the participation frequency of students in the pre-lecture quizzes and their final cumulative test grade average) 100 90 80 70 Final exam score percentage 60 50 40 30 student (n) =219 20 R2 = 0.221 10 P = 1.96 X 10 -13 0 0 20 40 60 80 100 Pre-lecture quiz participation frequency 14
  • 16. Conclusion Here I present the first report on the application of Just in Time Teaching (JiTT) pedagogy to a science course at University of Miami. It has been tested and approved to be an effective teaching pedagogy in a challenging major science course, even with a large enrollment. The pre-lecture quiz centered JiTT features applied in my genetics course increased quality interactions between students and me, and promoted good study habits necessary for student success. In addition, students performed better on exam questions addressed by pre-lecture quiz questions, resulting in a significant increase in cognitive gains. Such exercises are also consistent with many procedures and practices recommended for effective undergraduate teaching. Five of the “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (Chickering and Gamson, 1987) are directly addressed by JiTT: increased student-faculty contact, active learning techniques, prompt feedback, cooperation among students, and time on task, with the other two being indirect effects of JiTT (respecting diverse ways of learning, communicating high expectations). I am currently using JiTT method in my genetics class for the second time in the spring semester with enriched Web resources and test banks. I strongly recommend my colleagues at UM to take a look at this powerful and effective pedagogy. It is definitely worth a try. Feasibility, difficulties and challenges JiTT has been practiced in nine different disciplines including biology, geology, chemistry, psychology, and math, as well as in nursing, history, economics, and anthropology. There is sufficient amount of literature available for us to retrieve reference from. Very little technical knowledge of Web page construction is needed for faculty to implement all aspects of JiTT into a Blackboard course system. Blackboard system is also readily available to every faculty member and student of University of Miami. The staff at the Instructional Advancement Center, lead by the Blackboard expert, Mr. Bill Vilberg, are available throughout the day to provide excellent support on all aspects of online instructions. In today’s Web-savvy society, familiarity is almost a given for college students, and wired and wireless internet access are available to students at almost every corner of the UM campus. The infrastructure is already here, and the technical support is readily available. In my opinion, it is more than feasible to implement such effective pedagogy to all our classrooms at University of Miami. The most difficult and challenging part of this practice is that faculty do need to put in extra time to get to know Blackboard, to make an informative web page, to make online pre-lecture quiz questions, to review assessment feedback, and to modify the lecture material accordingly. It does take more time compared to the way a traditional large enrollment lecture-based class is usually managed, especially when you implement such a system for the first time. However, each professor can tailor any aspects of JiTT to best meet his/her own course needs and make the most value of the additional time input needed. It took me about two weeks to set up the Blackboard system with JiTT features when I first started it. It typically took me about two hours every week to evaluate 15
  • 17. students’ online quiz results and make two online quizzes. As the publishing company provided me with a fairly useful test bank which was already imported to the Blackboard, it was not too difficult to make my own quizzes on the pre-made platform in the Blackboard. Now, I am teaching the same course with the same system, it has never taken me more than an hour each week to implement and use every JiTT features in my class. To conclude, JiTT may take more time than a traditional lecture to prepare, but it has the advantage of promoting active faculty-student interactions and enhancing active student learning. The increased student gains achieved by applying JiTT strategy will far more outweigh the cost of extra time required in implementing it to our classroom. References: American Association for the Advancement of Science (1989). Project 2061 Science for All Americans, Rutherford F.J., and Ahlgren, A., eds. Washington, DC: Oxford University Press. Bybee, R., ed. (2002). Learning Science and the Science of Learning. Arlington VA: National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). Chickering, A.W., and Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bull. 3-7. Marrs, K.A., and Novak, G. (2004). Just-in-Time Teaching in Biology: Creating an Active Learner Classroom Using the Internet. Cell Biology Education (3) 49 – 61. National Research Council (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School, Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., and Cocking, R.R., eds. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Novak, G, Patterson, E.T., Garvin, A.D., and Christian, W. (1999). Just-in-Time Teaching: Blending Active Learning with Web Technology, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Udovic, D., Morris, D., Dickman, A., Postlethwait, J., and Wetherwax, P. (2002). Workshop Biology: Demonstrating the effectiveness of active learning in an introductory biology course. BioScience (52) 272 – 281. 16
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