The paper examines the impact of the traditional lecture-exam format and a derivation of active learning which bases the assessment of student performance on class participation. Although student evaluations of four graduate courses and the literature indicate lectures convey a greater volume of information than active learning, none of the evaluation questions permitted an analysis of the tradeoff between the breadth of coverage and the depth of learning and understanding. However, the students’ comments divulge a connection between motivation and learning. The comments of self-motivated students indicate grades based on class participation enable them to reallocate time from test preparation to developing a deeper understanding of the material and preparing for class discussion. Those who prefer the exam format often view the class participation grading scheme as an opportunity to reduce the amount of time dedicated to reading and study. The students’ time allocation decisions are reflected in standard deviations for the class participation-based course which are greater than the dispersion for the exam-based course. It is also evident that both sets of students want their knowledge to be validated through formal assessment mechanisms. Consequently, one of the recommendations is to incorporate assessments, such as reflections on what the student has learned, which maximize the benefits of class participation without resorting to exams. It is also recommended the scope of course evaluations be expanded to include measures of active learning, e.g., the extent to which the student understands and is able to apply the material.
|Keywords:||Active Learning, Stimulus-Response Learning, Assessment, Pedagogy, Professional Training, Graduate Curriculum|
Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs and Administration, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
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