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Thursday, June 23 • 15:00 - 16:00
CON08.11b - Is It A Better Course? Challenges In Evaluating The Effectiveness Of A Redesigned Large First-year University Psychology Course

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It can be difficult to assess improvement when courses are redesigned to meet current standards of best pedagogical practice. One standard is that there should be evidence to indicate that a course is effective, and ideally more effective than the course it replaced.

However, many challenges face those engaged in comparing different teaching approaches to a course because strong experimental designs (LoSchiavo, Shatz & Poling, 2008; Slavin, 2004) are difficult to implement, given the constraints and exigencies imposed by a real, very large, university course (Kember, 2003). Conducting research ‘in the classroom’ requires flexibility in the identification of outcome measures that can be compared between courses, and negotiation of changes to assessment and instructional practice within the constraints of student timetables, instructor skill, instructional space, costs, and colleagues’ beliefs. These challenges cannot be discounted during the comparison process.

The first-year psychology course at Queen’s University welcomes approximately 1800 students each autumn, and was redesigned four years ago to promote student engagement, and to place a great emphasis on conceptual understanding. We have attempted to compare the effectiveness of this new, redesigned, course with that of the traditional lecture-based course that it replaced. Here we share our framework for the evaluation process, and compare the data collected from the baseline with that collected from the first three years of the redesign. We will discuss the decisions that we made in choosing outcome measures, as well as the challenges that we faced, and highlight conceptual issues inherent in attempting to compare different teaching and learning structures even when the learning objectives remain largely the same.

Through a series of concept questions, we will involve participants in actively thinking about, and working with their peers to resolve, some of these challenges. By the end of this session, participants will be able to identify many of the difficulties inherent in testing course effectiveness and propose realistic solutions.

avatar for Jill Atkinson

Jill Atkinson

Adjunct Associate Professor, Queen's University
Jill Atkinson is Adjunct Associate Professor at Queen`s University, Kingston, Canada. She is Chair of the Undergraduate Psychology program. She teaches an advanced undergraduate seminar and practicum course in Applied Research in Higher Education, and redesigned Queen’s’ popular... Read More →

Ingrid Johnsrude

Ingrid Johnsrude is Western Research Chair at University of Western Ontario, London, Canada. Before Western, she was at Queen’s University for 10 years, where she helped to redesign the popular Introduction to Psychology course to promote active learning and engagement. She is also... Read More →

Thursday June 23, 2016 15:00 - 16:00 EDT
UCC 67