EQUIVALENCY OF GENERAL BIOLOGY (FOR MAJORS) ACROSS A STATE-SYSTEM by KIMBERLY FAYETTE REGIER B.A., University of Colorado Boulder, 1995 M.A., University of Colorado Denver, 2003 M.P.H., Walden University, 2008 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education Leadership for Educational Equity 2014
ii This thesis for the Doctor of Education degree by Kimberly Fayette Regier has been approved for the Leadership for Educatio nal Equality Program by Shelley Zion, Co-Chair Alan Davis, Co-Chair Ian MacGillivray November 25, 2014
iii Regier, Kimberly Fayette (Ed.D, Lead ership for Educational Equity) Equivalency of Introductory Biology C ourse Credit Across A State-System Thesis directed by Assistant Research Prof essor Shelley D. Zion & Associate Professor Alan Davis. ABSTRACT General biology courses (for majors) are of ten transferred from one institution to another. These courses must prepare student s for upper division courses in biology. A survey of U.S. college biology faculty was conducted and revealed that more 4-year faculty do not believe that al l general biology courses are eq uivalent. An evaluation of course grades in two upper division biology courses at University of Colorado Denver ( N = 2129) based upon course grades in general biology and the type of institution where general biology was taken (2-year school, 4-year in-residence at UCD, AP credit, CLEP credit, or IB credit) was conducted. Student s who transferred general biology credit received lower grades in upper division biology courses and withdrew from upper division biology courses more frequen tly. Syllabi from a small sample ( N = 9) of general biology courses offered at Colorado 2and 4-year schools show va riation in course design. Only 30% of the courses had detailed learning objectives. Sample exams reveal a range in variation between 3-69% of questi ons requiring higher-order thinking according to BloomÂ’s Taxonomy. Increasing communicat ion between high sc hool, 2-year and 4year biology faculty is necessary if consistency is to be ga ined. Professional development for faculty to increase awareness about exam development, curriculum alignment, and curriculum mapping may reduce the disparities between the preparation of students in biology. Transfer student grade outcomes s hould be investigated across the state.
iv The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Shelley D. Zion & Alan Davis
v ACKNOWLDEDGEMENTS This research would not have been po ssible without the da ta supplied by the Colorado Department of Higher Education a nd University of Colorado Denver and the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE) for posting my survey link on their website. I truly a ppreciate the individual instru ctors who shared syllabi and exams. Thank you also to my advisors, my cohort and my colleagues for continual support and feedback.
vi TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARYÂ…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â…Â….1 II. INTRODUCTION ......................................................................................................... 4 Extent of the Issue ........................................................................................................... 5 Call for More Efforts to Improve Transfer Experiences ................................................. 8 Prior Research on Transfer Student Success and Transfer Articulation ......................... 9 Research Questions ....................................................................................................... 13 III. FACULTY PERCEPTIONS ....................................................................................... 14 IV. GRADE DATA .......................................................................................................... 19 Comparison of Genera l Biology Grades ....................................................................... 21 Comparison of Upper Division Biology Course Grades ............................................... 22 Correlation between General Biology Grades and Upper Division Course Grades ..... 24 Comparison of Withdrawals from Upper Division Courses ......................................... 25 Discussion .................................................................................................................... 27 Extrapolation to Other 4-Year Institutions .................................................................... 28 V. SYLLABI .................................................................................................................... 33 VI. EXAMS ..................................................................................................................... 36 VII. IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ................................................... 43
vii REFERENCES ................................................................................................................. 50 APPENDIX ...................................................................................................................... 55
1 CHAPTER I EXECUTIVE SUMMARY General biology courses (for majors) are of ten transferred from one institution to another. These courses must prepare student s for upper division courses in biology. A survey was created and a link was posted on the website for the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (a subgroup of the national biological organization American Association for the A dvancement of Science). The survey link was also emailed from the listserve of th is website. Two-hundred-eleven U.S. college biology faculty (20% 2-year faculty and 80% 4-year faculty) responde d. Results revealed that more 2-year faculty, compared to 4-y ear faculty, believe that all college general biology courses are equivalent. Ne ither of the majority of 2-y ear or 4-year faculty believe that courses taught in high schools for colleg e credit or placement exam courses (AP or IB) are equivalent to courses taught in colleges. In an effort to determine if these perceptions are supported, three aspects of general biology courses were reviewed in an effort to investigate the equi valencies of general biology cour ses offered in public, higher education institutions within Colorado: student grade data, syllabi, exams. Data were obtained for students w ho took cell biology and genetics at the University of Colorado Denver between fall 2009 and spring 2014 ( N = 2,129) for the following variables: grade in general biology (the prerequisi te course for cell biology and genetics), grade in cell biology and/or geneti cs, and the type of institution in which the student took general biology. Grades in general biology are similar when compared between students who took general biology at a Colorado 2-year school and UCD rising students; general biology grades from 4-year schools (other than UCD) were lower than
2 UCD general biology grades. An evaluation of course grades in two upper division biology courses at an UCD based upon course gr ades in general biology and the type of institution where general biology was taken (2 -year school, 4-year, in-residence at UCD, AP credit, CLEP credit, or IB credit) was c onducted. In general, students who transferred general biology credit (with the exception of IB students) received lo wer grades in upper division biology courses and withdrew from upper division biology courses more frequently. Students transferring from 2-year in stitutions appear to be at an even higher disadvantage than 4-year transfers. Among students who received an Â“AÂ” in general biology, students who completed general biol ogy at UCD received higher grades in cell biology and genetics than students transferri ng credit from either 2-year or 4-year schools. The correlation between grade in ge neral biology and grade in the upper division courses was also higher for UCD rising students. Syllabi from a small sample of gene ral biology courses (o ne high school AP course, three courses from 2-year institutions, five courses from 4-year institutions) show a lot of variation in course design (weight s of assessment types, textbook, lab design). Three course syllabi stated broad learning goals and three course syllabi had detailed learning objectives. Three syllab i listed neither goals nor ob jectives. Exams from nine courses (one official AP exam, one high sc hool AP course exam, three exams from 2year schools and four exams from 4-year schools) were reviewed. Exams revealed variation of 3-69% of questi ons requiring higher-order thinking according to BloomÂ’s Taxonomy. The sample size is very small, but the percentage of higher-order thinking questions was higher in exams from 4-year in stitutions compared to 2-year schools. The
3 official AP exam had an even higher percenta ge of higher-order questions compared with 4-year schools. General biology courses offered at public in stitutions in Colorado do not appear to offer students consistent experiences. Seve ral recommendations may be useful in decreasing disparities. Increase comm unication and coordination among biology instructors across all three le vels of institutions (high schools, 2-year and 4-year institutions of higher education) to ac hieve consistency should be a priority. Communication regarding consistency within institutions should also be a significant goal. Professional development for facu lty to increase awareness about exam development, curriculum alignment, and cu rriculum mapping may reduce the disparities between the preparation of students in bi ology. Placement exams, concept inventories, and exit exams should be discussed. Future re search on disparities of student success should be conducted. State-wide grade data, sp ecifically investigati ng online courses and labs, should be evaluated and personal stude nt characteristics (i.e., socioeconomic, ethnicity, gender) controlled. In terviews with transfer biology students should be conducted. Additionally, the efforts outlined above should be documented and the success of the implementations should be followed.
4 CHAPTER II INTRODUCTION Transfer articulation agreements are desi gned to reduce lost credits, time and money (Roksa & Keith, 2008) for students transf erring from 2-year schools to 4-year schools. They are formal partnerships between multiple colleges and universities (AcademyOne, 2013). Typically, a student complete s an associate of ar ts or associate of science at a community college which is guaranteed to fulfill 60 credits of requirements at the four-year university or college in a sp ecific major. The agreements must allow the student to then complete the bachelorÂ’s de gree in another 60 cr edits. The transfer agreements clearly state which classes a stude nt should take at the community college so that lost credits are eliminated. As of 2012, fo rty-six states have cooperative agreements according to the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC, 2012). There are 50+ schools with transfer agreements for biology majors across the nation (Academy One, Inc. 2014). In 2007, Colorado Revised Statute Â§23-1108(7) was approved to ensure that transfer articulation agreements were formed for the Colorado public higher education system (CDHE, n.d.b). The Colorado Department of Higher Education has been facilitating discussions between the public institutions in Colorado to create transfer agreements. This process involves faculty from all public institutions within one discipline to come to consensus on the classe s which will be requi red at the community college to transfer for that major at the 4year schools. Currently, there are articulation agreements in place for 15 bachelorÂ’s degr ee majors and several others in negotiation, including biology. By December 2014, 28 should be completed.
5 There are several avenues to receive college credit for introductory courses, such as general biology. Accelerated high school pr ograms, such as Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate ( IB), offer many of these courses. College Level Examination Program (CLEP) offer students th e opportunity to receive college credit without completing the college course Â– a way to Â“test outÂ”. Students may also take these introductory courses at a community colle ge (either during high school in a dual enrollment program or as a traditional student at a community college ) or at a four-year institution. Transfer articula tion agreements are based upon the assumption that any of these methods ensure equivalent preparati on for students to take upper division courses within their major at a 4-year school. Many of these introducto ry courses are also part of the Guaranteed Transfer Pathway (GT) program which also aims to reduce the loss of credits when transferring within the Colorado system. This program identifies specific courses that will satisfy specific general educat ion requirements at either 2-year or 4-year institutions. If these courses ar e not equivalent but students are receiving credit as if they were, students may be put at a disadvanta ge as they continue their education. These concerns have played a role in the process of creating a transfer articulation agreements for biology in Colorado. Hezel A ssociates & Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (2010) found that 4-year faculty were reluctant to consider courses from community colleges equivalent; this ha s blocked articulation agreements in other states and disciplines as well. Extent of the Issue In Colorado, there are 15 public two-year instituti ons and 13 public four-year schools. In the fall of 2012, there were 256,589 students enrolled in Colorado public
6 higher education intuitions. Approximately 103,000 were enrolled in 2-year schools and 153,000 were enrolled in 4-year schools. Between 2006-2011, an annual average of 5,631 students transferred from a Colorado 2-year to a Colora do 4-year school (CDHE, n.d.a). According to the National Student Clear inghouse Research Center (2012), 60% of transfer students graduated within four y ears of transferring but another 12% were still enrolled. The Colorado Community College System (2014) states its object is to: provide educational programs to fill the occupational needs of youth and adults in technical a nd vocational fields, two-year transfer educational programs to qualify students for admission to the junior year at other college s and universities, basic skills, workforce development, and a broad range of personal and vocational education for adults. (paragraph 2) There are many reasons a student may choos e a community college such as lower tuition, flexible schedules, av ailability of remedial coursewo rk, need to increase student grades to be admitted to a 4-year school, location and student suppor t services (American Association of Communi ty Colleges, 2013). Concurrent enrollment programs are one factor in the increase in community college credits. Twenty-two pe rcent of all public Colorado 11th and 12th graders participated in official concurrent enrollm ent programs (taking college classes while in high school) and 84% of those pass thos e courses. In 2012-2013, 143,939 credit hours were attempted by Colorado students through concurrent enrollment programs. These credits were taken at 2-year and 4-year Colorado higher ed ucation institutions but only 7% of the credit hours attempted and passe d in 2012-2013 were from 4-year schools (CDHE, 2014).
7 Paralleling the increase in students recei ving credit at community colleges is the increase in students obtaining credit from placement exams. Nationally, the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses in high school has steadily been increasing (18.0% in 2002 to 32.4% in 2012) (CollegeBoard, 2014a). In 2013, 39.2% of all Colorado graduating high school students ha d taken at least one AP exam and 24.4% receiving a 3+ score which would potentiall y be received as college credit. Fewer Colorado students complete the science AP ex ams compared with English and history but 13.3% of all 2013 graduating seniors in Co lorado completed a science (Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Physics B, Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, and Physics C: Mechanics) AP exam and 7.2% received 3+ score (CollegeBoard, 2014b). IB credits are less numerous but also rising; 6510 students took IB exams in Colorado in 2009 and 83% of them received scores of 4+(IBO, 2010). One other category exists for alternative college credit. Some courses taught at Colorado high schools by high school faculty generate college credit. For example, the CU Succeed Program offers low cost college credits. Often these courses double as AP courses within the high school. There were 179 students enrolled in introductory biology courses offered through CU Succeed in Spring 2014. Based on these numbers, a large proportion of Colorado college students will take introductory courses through m eans other than a 4-year in stitution. Colorado students should be exposed to essential content and skills during general biology whether taken during high school, at a community college or at a 4-year school. If students are unprepared for higher level courses, their gr ades will suffer which may have short-term implications for the student including time a nd financial cost of repeating classes, and
8 reductions in self-esteem and motivation. Po tential long-term im plications include graduation attainment, employment opportunitie s, and graduate or professional school admittance. Call for More Efforts to Improve Transfer Experiences In 2009, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter asked the Colorado Commission of Higher Education to develop a strategic pl an to double the number of degrees and certificates by 2020. This aligned with Presiden t ObamaÂ’s call to incr ease degree holders aged 25-34 to 60% by 2020. Currently, only 50% of Colorado students entering Colorado colleges graduate within 6 y ears. Graduation rates vary between different types of institutions (CDHE, 2010): 4-year research institutions 31-42% in four years, and 59-73% in six years, four-year state colleges 14% in f our years and 37% in six years, two-year community colleges 25% in two or more years (without considering part-time students or those transferring to four-year institutions). The Colorado Commission of Higher Edu cation Strategic Plan focuses on four topics: affordability, access, quality and accountability. To accomplish these goals the Commission recommends many points which dir ectly pertain to this study but most importantly it states that the State of Co lorado should Â“Â…develop seamless transfer standardsÂ—from the studentÂ’s perspectiveÂ— for movement from two-year to four-year institutions for qualified students, and institute them statewideÂ” (CDHE, 2010, p. 25). Other relevant recommendations include al lowing students multiple entry points to college and flexible pathways to graduation, increasing support structures to stay on track
9 to graduation, increasing alignment a nd collaboration across P-20 education and workforce systems, using common data and assessments, increasing alternative delivery methods, and placement testing, concurrent en rollment and accelerated coursework in high school (CDHE, 2010). These options will increase student access but they must also align and allow the seamless transition that was mentioned previously. Following a review of transfer polic ies and programs nationwide, Hezel Associates & Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (2010) recommended making transfer pathways clear for stude nts which includes clearly communicated articulation agreements and more collaborati ve work with faculty across institutions. They also recommended assessing Â“Â… student success through quantitative measures of individual student-level indicatorsÂ” (p. ix). Thes e nationwide and statewide recommendations align well with this study and ensure an audien ce for the results. Prior Research on Transfer Student Success and Transfer Articulation Several studies have investigated the succe ss of transfer students in 4-year schools compared with Â“risingÂ” students at the 4-ye ar institution. The majority of these studies have investigated differences in GPA and/ or degree attainment. The results of these studies are mixed. There were inconsistent findings in thr ee studies evaluating tr ansfer student and rising student degree attainment rates. Melguizo, Kienzl, & Alfonso (2011) found no difference. This study utilized the NELS 88 data set and had a large nationally represented sample (640 transfer studen ts from community colleges and 2520 rising students). They found differences in baccal aureate attainment and in credit hours completed but once socioeconomic, high school preparation and indivi dual characteristics
10 were controlled for, there was no significant difference between the groups. Glass & Harrington (2002) found rising stude nt degree attainment rates higher than those of transfer students. Glass & Ha rrington (2002) had a small samp le from one university (50 transfers from community colleges and 50 rising students). But, Anglin, Davis, & Mooradian (1995) found that transfer stude nts had equal or higher graduation rates compared with rising students. This st udy followed students from 1979-1988 at one state university. They had a large matched samp le (1,404 students who transferred from Community College and 1,404 rising students). Students who received colle ge credit for AP exams had higher GPAÂ’s than students without AP credit at Georgia Tech. Th ey also graduated at higher rates and with more upper division college credits (Acker man, Kanfer, & Calderwood, 2013). This was a large study (sample of 26,693) but include d only students attending Georgia Tech between 1999-2009. Transfer shock refers to the decrease in grad e point average after transferring (Hills, 1965). Some studies have found no difference between graduating GPA (Campbell, Choo, Lindsay, & Tan, 2013; J ohnson, 2005; Townsend, Carr, & Scholes, 2003). Several authors found that transfer students experienced transfer shock but recovered in the second semester (Glass Jr & Harrington, 2002; Carlan & Byxbe, 2000; Colley, Volkan, & Drucker, 1996). Others repo rt evidence of transfer shock without recovery (Carlan, 2001; Cejda & Kaylor, 1997; Colley, Volkan, & Drucker, 1996; Cejda, 1997; Lui, 2013; Porter, 1999). A few studies found variations in transfer shock depending on a studentÂ’s major. Cejda (1997) and Cejda, Kaylor, & Rewey (1998) determined that humanities and social
11 science majors actually experienced Â“transfer ecstasyÂ” (an increase in GPA at the 4-year institution) while science and math majors experienced transfer shock. Carlan (2001) found no difference in GPAÂ’s between transfer students and rising students, except for science and business majors who suffered from transfer shock. Fewer studies have assessed course grades for transfer versus rising students. Montondon and Eikner (1997) found that grad es in upper division accounting classes were higher for transfer stude nts (230 students in one inte rmediary accounting class). Whitfield (2005) found that chemistry student s performed equally in Organic Chemistry courses but transfer students had significantly lower course grades in Biochemistry (statewide data, 2477 students, 1996-2002). Asarta, Fuess, and Perumal (2013) found similar results. Students who took introductory cour ses in economics at a community college had grades in upper division economics courses th at were lower than rising students (nearly 1,000 students, 1999Â–2008). Similarly, transfer st udents received lower course grades in college level math courses if they took intermediate algebra at a community college (417 students from one school) (Friedl, Pittenger, & Sherman, 2012). Four studies found evidence of grade infla tion at the community colleges (Asarta, Fuess, & Perumal, 2013; Carlan & Byxbe, 2000; Friedl, Pittenger, & Sherman, 2012; Whitfield, 2005). GPAÂ’s for the first two y ears of students at community colleges are typically higher than students at 4-year inst itutions. The grades of these transfer students tend to drop (transfer shock) after transfe rring compared with students who have taken similar lower division coursewo rk with similar grades. There are many possible reasons for the di screpancies in these studies. Sample sizes varied widely. All of th e research involved transfer fr om one school to another with
12 large variations in school attributes. Every school had varying aspect s (size of classes, type and quality of advising and other s upport services, quality of instruction). Additionally, social aspects (such as comm unity engagement) of college impact the academic success of students. These variables make it more difficult to determine if the academic preparation obtained at a community college could explain the variation in academic success in upper division coursework. This study, like others described above, will not focus on the social aspects but attempt to determine if discrepancies exist. The results may be less generalizable but nonetheles s pertinent to the sp ecific state system investigated. This study will attempt to f ill a gap. There is a deficit of literature on learning objectives and transfer articulation. I f ound no work aligning learning objectives for transfer classes. This seems to be an obvious need which could help ensure equivalency. I also found no recent studies involving biology coursework for a similar study.
13 Research Questions The primary research question is: Are introductory biology courses equivale nt across the state-wide Colorado system? Specific questions: 1. Do biology faculty perceive high school cl asses for college credit, 2-year and 4year classes as equivalent? 2. Do students who completed general biol ogy at UCD receive higher grades in UCD upper division biology courses (cell biology and genetics) compared to students who took general biology at anot her institution or received placement exam credit for general biology? 3. Do students who completed general biology at another institution or received placement exam credit for general biology withdraw more from UCD upper division biology courses (cel l biology and genetics) co mpared to students who took general biology at UCD? 4. How do the courses compare in respect to assessments, textbooks, and lab manuals? 5. If they exist, to what degree do the lear ning objectives for each of the general biology courses cover similar content and sk ills at each of the 2-year and 4-year institutions? 6. To what degree are the general biology exams from each institution similarly demanding regarding higher level thi nking skills as defined by BloomÂ’s taxonomy?
14 CHAPTER III FACULTY PERCEPTIONS Colorado biology faculty attending the annua l Faculty to Faculty Conference with the Colorado Department of Higher Educati on have expressed concerns that general biology courses are not equivalent across all inst itutions. Specifically, for at least the last four years faculty from 4-year institutions state that gene ral biology courses at 2-year institutions lack rigor, esp ecially online lab courses. To investigate if this claim was widespread, a survey was developed to i nvestigate faculty perceptions (Appendix). Biology faculty nationwide were targeted for the faculty perception survey. A link to a SurveyMonkey survey was posted on the webs ite for the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education, a subgroup of th e national biological organization American Association for the Advancement of Science. The link to the survey was also emailed to the listserve of this organization. The respons e from 2-year institutions was much lower than 4-year institutions; the survey was also emailed to one biology faculty member at thirteen western community colleges. Univ ersity of Colorado Denver Human Subjects Research approval was obtained for all compone nts of the research. Survey results were summarized with descriptive statistics a nd free form comments coded for trends. Since the link was posted on a website, a response rate is unknown. The total number of participants in the survey was 211. Forty-one (19.9%) of the responses were from faculty from 2-year institutions a nd 165 (80.1%) from 4-year institutions. The respondents represent forty states from all four U.S. regions (Table 3.1).
15 Table 3.1. Percent of responses by U.S. Regions (U.S. Census Bureau map used to determine regions.) % Total % 2-year Institution % 4-year Institution Northeast 25.7% 20.8% 77.3% South 29.6% 9.8% 90.1% Midwest 20.9% 16.3% 81.4% West 23.8% 32.7% 63.3% More 2-year than 4-year f aculty agreed that 2-year c ourses are equivalent to 4year courses. All of the 2-year faculty agr ee or strongly agree that general biology at 2year institutions was equivale nt to the same course taught at a 4-year school. Only 35.1% of 4-year faculty agreed or strongly agree th at 2-year courses were equivalent to 4-year courses (Figure 3.1). Faculty from 2-year and 4-year institutions responded similarly to the question of equivalency of high school cl asses which generate college credit: 57.5% and 46.5% of 2-year and 4-year faculty, respec tively, indicated that they disagreed that high school classes were equivalent to co llege courses (Figure 3.2). There was little difference in regional responses from 2-year and 4-year faculty for both questions.
16 Figure 3.1. Number of responses of college biology faculty from 2-year and 4-year institutions to the question: Do you believe that introductory biology courses taught at 2year colleges provide equivalent preparation (in content, skills and rigor) to the same course taught at a 4-year school? (N=202) Figure 3.2. Number of responses from colle ge biology faculty to the question: Do you believe that introductory bi ology courses taught at high schools which produce college credit (i.e., AP, IB) provide e quivalent preparation (in conten t, skills and rigor) to the same course taught at a 4-year school? (N=204) 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 Strongly AgreeAgreeDisagreeStrongly Disagree 4 year 2 year 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 Strongly AgreeAgreeDisagreeStrongly Disagree 4 year 2 year
17 Many open-ended responses alluded to Â“pre parationÂ” and Â“rigorÂ”. These terms are vague and it is difficult to determine their true meaning. When asked if introductory biology courses at 2-year and 4-year courses were equivale nt, the most common response cited differences in instructors both w ithin and between institutions and between institutions themselves. Thirty-nine of the 88 (44%) faculty that provided comments mentioned these differences. Fifty-seven perc ent (50/88) of faculty who provided written comments perceived 2-year courses as ha ving lower rigor. These comments included statements that students in upper divisi on courses who transferred from 2-year institutions were Â“less preparedÂ” and Â“le ss successfulÂ” than students from 4-year institutions and that there was less skill de velopment in 2-year courses (Appendix Table A.1). The second survey question regarding the equivalency of high school courses for general biology produced similar open-ended res ponses to the question about 2-year vs 4year courses. Thirty-four percent (32/93) re sponded that there is tremendous variation within and between institutions, mostly due to different instructors. Sixty-five percent (60/93) of the responses dea lt with the rigor of the high school courses. Specifically, responses included that the courses Â“teach to the testÂ”, have lower lab quality, exclude some content, and include less skill de velopment and more memorization (Appendix Table A.2). There were limitations to the surve y. Some schools offer non-majors biology courses separately from majors courses and some schools offer a combination lecture/lab course and some offer lecture and lab cour ses separately. The survey did not specify
18 which of these courses were specifically being addressed. Additionally, more 4-year faculty responded to the survey compared to 2-year faculty.
19 CHAPTER IV GRADE DATA Many faculty believe that there are disp arities between the quality of general biology based upon instructor, in stitution, or placement exam preparation (Chapter III). Grade data from general biology and cell bi ology/genetics courses was utilized to investigate if these claims are supported. University of Colorado Denver Human S ubjects Research approval was obtained for all components of the re search. All Colorado public four-year institutions were included except two that do not offer traditio nal biology majors. The degree requirements for the biology majors at each of the instit utions obtained from the schoolÂ’s websites were compared. They all required an introduct ory course series which prepared students for upper division coursework. Nine of elev en schools required cell biology and all eleven schools required genetics (Appendi x Table A.3). Genetics and cell biology were selected as a sub-sample. Lab and lecture courses require diffe rent skills and knowledge from the introductory courses so both were included in the study. At least one lab course was selected for each institution. For some school s, the major required a genetics lab, some a cell bio lab and some a combination lab. Thr ee schools did not requir e at least one of these labs as a component or a separate lab course of cell biology or genetics. These schools do accept these labs as electives for the major; one of these upper division labs for each school was included in the data reque st. The number of lab course records in the final data set for cell and genetics lab cour ses was very small and only represented four institutions and so was omitted from the data analysis.
20 General biology is typically a 2-semester sequence. For all schools in the study, one of the general biology courses focused on the topics required as background for cell biology and genetics. Therefore, only the per tinent semester of general biology was used for the analysis. Seven of the 11 4-year school s offered lecture/lab combination courses, while four had separate lecture and lab c ourses. The lab components had much higher grades than the lecture courses. This may increase grade means in lecture/lab courses. Lab-only course components were not included in the data analysis. Data was requested through the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The data request to CDHE included informati on on the students who completed cell biology or genetics courses between 2012-2013 at any of the 4-year Colorado public institutions: course grade in cell biology and genetics, academic and demographic information for these students: high school GPA, ACT score, college GPA, total number of college credits completed at the time the course was taken, gender, ethnicity, institution where these students receive d credit for the in troductory biology course, course delivery mode for th e introductory courses (onlin e, hybrid, on-campus). CDHE responded that data for several of the requested variables was not available, and provided the following: (a) c ourse grade in cell bi ology and genetics, and (b) academic and demographic information (h igh school GPA, ACT scores, college GPA, total number of college credits completed at the time the course was taken, gender, ethnicity). There were 8740 records for general biology a nd 5110 for cell and genetics.
21 To supplement the CDHE data set, the University of Colorado Denver Office of Institutional Research was contacted and a da ta request submitted for a five year (fall 2009-spring 2014) period and the original CDHE data variables for students taking cell biology and genetics at UCD only. A complete data set was provided from UCD. The UCD data set included student identif ication numbers. There were duplicate students in the data set involving students who had taken both cell biology and genetics and from students who had repeated either general biology or cell biology or genetics. Since the goal was to determine how gene ral biology prepared students for cell and genetics, the best grade obtained in genera l biology was maintained and earlier grades removed. The first grade in cell and genetics was utilized for the analysis and repeat grades were removed. The UCD data set includes 976 records for genetics and 1,153 for cell biology. It was not possible to determine if there were similar repeats in the CDHE data set because student identifie rs were not included. This is a limitation in that data set. In the UCD data set, for some students who took cell biology or genetics it is unknown where or if they took general biol ogy. The information is not in the UCD system. This could be because the student had unevaluated transfer cr edits or it could be that they did not submit transfer transcript s. UCD began enforcing prerequisites in the registration system for cell biology a nd genetics in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014, respectively. SPSS (IBM, 2013) was utilized for the analyses. Descript ive statistics were calculated. Grades were not normally dist ributed even with transformations. Comparison of General Biology Grades To investigate if there were differences between grades in general biology within different institution types, a Mann-Whitney U Test was performed (grade distribution
22 data was not normally distributed). For st udents who took cell biology or genetics at UCD, mean ranks of general biology grades did not differ for students who completed general biology at UCD or at a Colorado 2-year institution (Tables 4.1 and 4.2). For students who took cell biology or genetics at UC D, mean ranks of general biology grades did differ for students who completed gene ral biology at UCD (genetics: 269.26, n = 447; cell biology: 339.65, n = 575) compared with a Colorado 4-year in stitution (genetics 219.30, n = 76; cell biology: 277.61, n = 87) (Tab les 4.1 and 4.2). Grades in general biology across other Colorado 4-year instituti ons was generally lower than at UCD. Table 4.1. Mann Whitney U Test statistics for grades in general bi ology of students who took cell biology at UCD between 2009-2014 accor ding to the type of institution where general biology was taken. U Z p r 2-year vs UCD 49867.00 -1.50 .13 Sq761/-1.5 4-year vs UCD 20324.00 -3.00 <.01 Sq662/-2.997 Table 4.2. Mann Whitney U Test statistics for grades in general bi ology of students who took genetics at UCD between 2009-2014 according to the type of institution where general biology was taken. U Z p r 2-year vs UCD 37270.00 -1.55 .12 Sq 627/-1.55 4-year vs UCD 13740 -2.81 <.01 Sq523/-2.81 Comparison of Upper Division Biology Course Grades The mean course grade in the upper divisi on biology courses (cell and genetics) at UCD was higher for students who complete d general biology at UCD compared with students who completed general biology at a Colorado 2-year or other Colorado 4-year school. The three placement exams (AP, IB, a nd CLEP) produced very different results. UCD Students who earned credit in general biology while in high school by passing AP and CLEP examinations performed lower in upper division biology co urses than students who took general biology at UCD. However, IB students performed much better than any
23 other group (Table 4.3). The sample size for CLEP is very small ( N =5) and is, therefore, not likely reliable. Comparing students who r eceived an Â“AÂ” in the first semester of general biology, students who completed genera l biology at UCD received higher grades in cell biology and genetics than students at either 2-year or 4-year schools but 4-year school students exceeded 2-year school students (Table 4.4). Table 4.3. Mean course grade in upper divisi on biology courses (cel l biology/genetics) at UCD based upon where the student took genera l biology (either at UCD, a Colorado 2year or Colorado 4-year institution, placement exam). N Mean course grade ( SD ) UCD 968 3.01 (.98) CO 2-years 335 2.61 (1.16) CO 4-years 149 2.78 (1.04) AP 51 2.93 (1.03) IB 30 3.54 (.56) CLEP 5 2.60 (1.52) Table 4.4. Mean grade in cell or genetics for students who r eceived an Â“AÂ” in general biology based upon the type of institution for general biology. N Mean course grade ( SD ) UCD 462 3.51 (.63) 2-year 196 2.93 (1.08) 4-year 40 3.17 (1.02) A Kruskal-Wallis nonparametric test was conducted to test for significant differences between institution types for gene ral biology on grades in genetics and cell biology because there were unequal variances an d distributions were not normal. The test indicated that the six groups (UCD, CO 2-year, CO 4-year, AP, CLEP, IB) differ significantly on course grade in genetics, 2 (5, N = 730) = 25.28, p < .01. Post hoc Mann-Whitney tests compared the six inst itution types on genetics grade, using a Bonferonni corrected p value of .008 to indicate statis tical significance. The mean rank for genetics grade of students who co mpleted general biology at UCD (323.30, n = 420)
24 was significantly higher than that of st udents who completed general biology at a Colorado 2-year institution (264.33, n = 189), U = 32003, Z = -3.87, p < .01, r = -.16, a small effect size according to Cohen (1988) The mean rank for genetics grade based upon other pairs of institution types for ge neral biology (UCD and IB, UCD and AP, UCD and CLEP, UCD and CO 4-y ear) were not significant. The same procedure was conducted for cell biology grades with similar results. The test indicated that the six groups (UCD, CO 2-year, CO 4-year, AP, CLEP, IB) differ significantly on course grade in cell biology, 2 (5, N = 899) = 28.51, p < .01. Post hoc Mann-Whitney tests compared the six institu tion types on cell biology grade, using a Bonferonni corrected p value of .008 to indi cate statistical significance. The mean rank for cell biology grade of students who completed general biology at UCD (403.80, n = 552) was significantly higher than that of students who completed general biology at a Colorado 2-year institution (329.09, n = 213), U = 47305.50, Z = -4.38 p < .01, r = -.16, a small effect size according to Cohen (1988). The mean rank for cell biology grades of students who completed general biology at UCD (329.37, n =552) was also significantly higher than that of students who comple ted general biology at a Colorado 4-year institution (273.23, n = 90), U = 20496, Z = -2.8, p = .005, r = -.11, a small effect size. The mean rank for cell biology grade based upon other pairs of institution types for general biology (UCD and IB, UCD and AP, UCD and CLEP) were not significant. Correlation between General Biology Grades and Upper Division Course Grades To investigate if there was a statistically significant associat ion between course grade in cell biology/genetics and course grade in general biology, a correlation was computed. Course grades were negatively skewed which violated the assumption of
25 normality. Thus, the Spearman rho statistic was calculated. Correla tions were conducted for students across institutions and then base d upon the type of institution where general biology was taken. All correlations were significant. Positive corr elations indicate that as general biology course grades increase, th e course grades in cell biology/genetics increase. However, the correlation is stronger for students rising to UCD for both classes. The correlation was very low for 2-year studen ts in genetics and 4-year students in cell biology (Table 4.5 and 4.6). Table 4.5. Spearman rho statistics for the co rrelation between grade in general biology and grade in genetics. Institution type for general biology df r p % variation explained ( r2) Across institutions 690 .47 < .01 22 2-year 155 .29 < .01 8 4 year (not including UCD) 68 .45 < .01 20 UCD only 416 .58 < .01 34 Table 4.6. Spearman rho statistics for the co rrelation between grade in general biology and grade in cell biology Institution type for general biology df R p % variation explained ( r2) Across institutions 854 .43 < .01 18 2-year 176 .39 < .01 15 4-year 77 .28 .01 8 UCD 548 .49 < .01 24 Comparison of Withdrawals from Upper Division Courses Completing a course for a grade can be a telling predictor bu t students who do not complete the course are also important in understanding prior preparation for a course. Students who dropped courses early in the seme ster and received no transcripted grade were not included in this study. Students w ho dropped the course la ter in the semester, received a Â“WÂ” (withdraw) on their transcri pt. Students who completed general biology at 4-year institutions, other than UCD, withdr ew more frequently from cell and genetics.
26 Students from 2-year schools also withdrew at higher rates. UCD students withdrew at the lowest rates (other than CLEP student s who had no withdrawals but a very small sample size) (Table 4.7). Of the students who withdrew from cell biology/genetics at UCD, grades in general biology were highe r at Colorado 2-year or 4-year schools, compared with rising UCD students. Colorado 2-year studentÂ’s grades in general biology were highest of the th ree groups (Table 4.8). Table 4.7. Percent of UCD students between 20092014 who withdrew from an upper division biology class (cell/genetics) based upon where they completed general biology. % who withdrew UCD 5.48 CO 2-years 11.04 CO 4-years 12.08 AP 1.96 IB 6.67 CLEP 0 Table 4.8. Mean grade in gene ral biology of students who withdrew from cell biology or ge netics at UCD based upon where they completed general biology. N Mean course grade ( SD ) UCD 53 2.84 (.84) CO 2-year 31 3.23 (.76) CO 4-year 14 3.14 (.71) Logistic regression was conducted to a ssess whether the predictors (type of institution for general biology and grade in general biology) si gnificantly predicted whether or not a student withdrew from cell biology or genetics. Since the placement exams (AP, IB, CLEP) do not result in a c ourse grade, they were omitted from the calculations. The largest transfer group wa s the Colorado community college students. When the logistic regression was computed between students who completed general
27 biology at UCD and students who completed general biology at a Colorado community college, the predictors together significantly predicted whether or not a student withdrew from cell biology/genetics, 2 = 32.65, df = 2, N =1388 p = <.01. Individually, each predictor was also a significant predictor. Table 4.9 presents the odds ratios, which suggest that the odds of completing are incr easingly greater as the grade in general biology increases and that UCD students are more likely to complete the class. Mean rank of grades in general biol ogy are not significantly different (as stated above) for these two groups. Table 4.9. Logistic regression predicting who w ill withdraw from genetics/cell biology at UCD based upon predictors of grade in gene ral biology and institution type (UCD or Colorado community college) for general biology. Variable B SE Odds Ratio p Grade in general biology .76 .14 2.13 <.01 Type of institution for general biology -.59 .24 .55 .01 Constant 1.08 .53 2.96 .04 Discussion The success of students in cell biology a nd genetics is based upon many factors of which their preparation from general biol ogy is only one. Many years pass between when a student takes general biology (or a high school course which receiv es college credit) and the upper division course. Student motiv ation, how many hours a student works, family and personal commitments, preparation in high school are just some factors which may impact academic success. There are several possible confounders for the grade analysis. Students self-s elect into a type of institution (2 -year vs. 4-year). More than one instructor may teach the same course within any institution and there may be significant
28 differences in the classes and in how grades are assigned. There may also be changes in instruction of each class by the same instru ctor. Additionally, the number of students who dropped early in the semester were not known and likely represent many students who were struggling with the class. Based upon the data available for this study, transfer students from any institution, received lower grades in upper division biol ogy courses at UCD. Transferring from a 2year institution had a larger negative impact on success. The data suggest that the grade in general biology at a 2-year school ma y not be a good predictor of a studentÂ’s preparation for cell biology or genetics at UCD. There are many reasons a student may withdraw from a course and academic success to date in the course is only one of them. However, the data indicate that although students were successful at their previous institution in general biology, transfer students withdraw fr om upper division courses at UCD more than rising UCD students. Extrapolation to Other 4-Year Institutions Although the data for this study involved student data from only one institution, the UCD student demographics and grade di stributions are similar to other Colorado four-year institutions. Therefore, the relati onships found for this institution may be applicable elsewhere. The statewide data set represen ts 2942 females (60%) and 1928 males (40%). Similarly, within the UCD data set, there are many more female than male records (1288 and 700 respectiv ely). The majority of the student records in both the statewide and UCD data set are white (66% and 64%, respectively). The statewide data includes records from students who identified as: 3231 White, 587 Hispanic, 416 Asian, 150 Black, 35 Native, and 226 unknown. Of the 2128 UCD records, students chose the
29 following as their race/et hnicity: 1271 White, 357 Asian, 128 Hispanic, 103 Black, 10 American Indian, 1 Pacific Islander a nd the remaining chose more than one race/ethnicity. Student high school GPA and composite ACT scores at UCD also show likenesses to some other Colorado 4-year institutions (Table 4.8). The Colorado Commission on Higher Educati on created the Admission Standards Policy in 1987. Each of the Colorado public institutions establis hed a minimum admissi on index score. The index score is based upon a student's high school GPA or high score rank percentage combined with ACT or SAT score. Transfer student acceptance is calculated based on transfer GPA. The minimum index scores for the Colorado public inst itutions vary from 76-110 (CDHE, n.d.c.). Not surprisingly, the hi gh school GPA and ACT scores of the students taking general biology courses at these institutions follow the same pattern as the index requirements (Table 4.8). The averag e ACT score was 23 with a range of 21-26.75. The average high school GPA was 3.34 with a range of 3.03-3.66. In general, the higher the required index score for the school, the higher the av erage ACT and high school GPA for the students who completed general biology courses. UCD falls in the middle of the range of the student scores a nd the index scores compared to the other Colorado 4-year institutions. The pattern repe ats for students who took cell biology and genetics courses Â– in general, the higher index score for the school, the higher the high school GPA and ACT scores of students (Table 4.8). The aver age ACT score across institutions was 24.91 with a range of 21.75-26.75. The average hi gh school GPA was 3.55 with a range of 3.10-3.70. For every school, but one, the numbe rs for students taking cell biology and genetics are slightly higher than those for the students who took general biology courses.
30 Students with more academic success in high school seem to be the students who pursue upper division biology courses at all the Colorado institutions. This raises a question of accessibility to the biology major for students who may have struggled for a variety of reasons in high school. Table 4.8. Mean high school GPA and ACT Composite scores for students who took general biology, cell bi ology or genetics at a Co lorado four-year school between 2012-2013, and their instituti onÂ’s Colorado Commission of Higher Education Required Index Score for First-Time Freshman Admittance for Fall 2013. Students taking general biology Students taking cell bio or genetics Institution CCHE Index Score N Mean ACT Composite (SD) Mean HS GPA (SD) N ACT composite (SD) Mean HS GPA (SD) METRO 76** 466 21.00 (3.51) 3.03 (.52) 16721.75 (3.82) 3.10 (.52) ADAMS 80* 81 21.46 (3.25) 3.24 (.59) 34 22.65 (4.0) 3.53 (.46) WESTERN 80 83 22.10 (3.18) 3.27 (.49) 57 24.81 (3.08) 3.37 (.90) CSU P 86 NA NA NA 12423.02 (3.78) 3.51 (.45) FT. LEWIS 92 155 22.92 (3.64) 3.36 (.51) 38 22.21 (3.61) 3.34 (.48) MESA 92* 219 22.14 (3.62) 3.23 (.58) 65 22.88 (3.62) 3.39 (.57) UCCS 92 296 23.64 (3.46) 3.33 (.51) 23624.80 (3.60) 3.53 (.44) UCD 93 550 22.92 (3.93) 3.40 (.49) 57623.50 (4.23) 3.51 (.51) UNC 94 616 22.19 (3.61) 3.26 (.50) 16624.20 (3.10) 3.43 (.50) CSU 101 157124.83 (3.75) 3.57 (1.29) 47825.74 (3.62) 3.67 (.33) UCB 103 502 26.75 (3.60) 3.66 (.38) 73427.13 (3.56) 3.70 (.35) AVERAGE 90.3 23.00 3.34 24.91 (4.10) 3.55 (.47) *Applies to students admitted to four year programs only; **Applies to admitted students 19 years of age and younger;
31 The grades in cell biology, genetics a nd general biology at UCD are within the range of grades at other Colorado 4-year institutions (Table 4.9 and Figure 4.1). The grade distributions do not follow the pattern of index scores that we saw above. There is a large range for general biology grades (1.39-2.95 ) with an average of 2.54. The range of mean grades in cell biology was 2.28-2.94 with an average of 2.64. The average of the mean genetics course grades was 2.51 with a range of 2.06-3.0. The fact that grade distributions and student demographics at ot her institutions are similar to UCD may allow findings from this study to be applied to so me of the Colorado institutions similar to UCD. Figure 4.1. Mean grade in general biology (fir st semester), cell biology, and genetics from Colorado 4-year institutions (institutions are not listed in any order) between 20122013. 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 ABCDEFGHIJKMean Course GradeColorado 4 Year Institution General Biology Cell Biology Genetics
32 Table 4.9. Mean course grades for 2012-2013 in general biology, cell biology and genetics by institution (institutions are not listed in any order). General biology includes lecture/lab combinati on course unless noted with which indicates lecture only course. General Biology Cell Biology Genetics Institution N Mean Course Grade (SD) N Mean Course Grade (SD) N Mean Course Grade (SD) A 1040 *2.24 (1.37) 184 2.47 (1.28) 412 2.32 (1.32) B 103 1.39 (1.08) 28 2.62 (1.36) 26 2.06 (1.14) C 108 2.71 (1.13) 42 2.62 (1.15) 37 2.99 (.69) D Na Na 37 2.89 (.77) 157 2.36 (1.20) E 242 2.70 (1.06) Na Na 64 2.70 (1.04) F 285 *2.33 (1.26) 33 2.94 (.83) 56 2.48 (1.10) G 428 2.74 (1.17) 198 2.77 (1.07) 151 3.00 (1.09) H 956 *2.47 (1.31) 620 2.67 (1.18) 464 2.67 (1.09) I 706 2.09 (1.25) 134 2.28 (1.12) 71 2.30 (1.10) J 1965 2.78 (.93) 332 2.66 (.89) 359 2.62 (.98) K 621 *2.95 (1.06) 247 2.73 (1.06) 678 2.39 (1.02) AVERAGE 2.54 (1.20) 2.64 (1.11) 2.51 (1.12) *lecture only
33 CHAPTER V SYLLABI Based upon the grade data above, general biology courses across Colorado do not appear to be equivalent. To determine wh ere discrepancies may lie, syllabi and exams were reviewed. Each biology department at each of the 2-year and 4-year schools were contacted to request syllabi, learning objectives or goals and major assessments (exams and lab projects) for their general biology c ourses. All Colorado public institutions were targeted for course materials except two. Colorado School of Mines does not offer a traditional biology major and CSU Global does not offer science majors; both were excluded. The coordinator for CU Succeed at UCD was also contacted to request documents from one of the high schools that teach biology courses which result in college credit and double as AP courses. A sample AP exam was obtained online from the CollegeBoard website. Of the 26 Colorado public schools contact ed, 13 responded to the email with a request for syllabi, learning objectives, sample labs and sample exams for their general biology courses. Of the 13 that responded, ei ght schools provided at least some of the requested documents. The sample labs were so few and varied so much in content that it was difficult to make any comparisons. An online search for syllabi for all sc hools resulted in one additional syllabus. Some of the schools have separate lab and lecture courses and some have a combined lecture/lab. In total, I obtained syllabi for f our lecture-only classes, two lab only classes, one lab syllabus for a lecture/lab combination class, one syllabus for a high school AP class and five syllabi for lecture/lab course s (two from one school for each of the intro
34 bio courses). For the course comparison of sy llabi and exams, I selected one course per school if I had received documents for more than one. Nine course syllabi were co mpared; four were lecture only courses and five were lecture-lab combination course s. All nine schools offer a two-semester sequence for general biology. The syllabi used in this st udy were from either the first or second semester of the general biology series. One of the schools divides the material slightly differently and has a semester of plant bi ology and one of animal biology; all other schools offer a semester of cell biology a nd a second semester of organismal biology. Three of the schools had broad learning goals listed on their syllab i; three had no learning goals or objectives. Three school s had detailed learni ng objectives either included in their syllabi or had sent a separate document as part of my request. The learning objectives/goals were not compared as the sa mple was so small. However, the lack of clear objectives is a concern. Creating common goals across institutions may be one avenue to increase consistency. Of the nine syllabi compared, all used the same grading scale (90-100 A, 80-90 B, 70-80 C, 60-70 D) except one (90-100 A; 80-90 B, 65-80 C, 55-65 D). Textbook use varied amongst the nine cour ses: Brooker et al. (2), Cambell Biology (4) Mader and Windelspecht (1), Raven et al. (1), and Ever t & Eichhorn (1). Four of the nine lecture courses mention the use of an online text book quiz system (Mastering or Connect). Two of the seven mention that lecture Â“notesÂ” are posted online for students. One course allowed a 3x5 notecard to be used during the exam. The number of exams ranged from 2-5 (a lthough one class did not specify the number). All the classes weighted exam grad es highest for the total class grade. The
35 weight of exams range from 39-75% of th e total grade (2 courses did not specify weights). The other types of assessments and their weights varied considerably. Although the sample size is small, the courses from 2-year institutions weighted exams less than 4year schools and 2-year schools offere d more exams (Appendix Table A.4).
36 CHAPTER VI EXAMS Nine exams were reviewed (1 high sc hool AP course, 1 AP exam, 3 2-year college exams and 4 4-year college exams). Each question on each exam was classified into a BloomÂ’s Taxonomy level. There are six levels of BloomÂ’s Taxonomy: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synt hesis, and evaluation. The first two are considered low-level thinking and levels th ree-six require higher-order thinking. Each question on each exam was identified for th e BloomÂ’s level using the Biology Blooming Tool (Table 6.1). The Biology Blooming Tool (Crowe, Dirks & Wenderoth, 2008) provides a clear rubric for sc oring exam or assignments and provides biology examples for each category. If a question required more than one BloomÂ’s skill, the higher level was recorded. The number of each type of que stion (multiple, choice, true/false, essay) was also tallied for each exam. To address inter-rater reli ability, two college biology exams (not included in this study) were evaluated independe ntly for BloomÂ’s levels by the researcher and another biology instructor at a Colorado 4-year instit ution whose course is not included in this study. The first exam consisted of 20 multiple choice questions and 15 short answer or fill in the blank questions. The second exam included 37 multiple choice questions and four short answer questions Inter-rater reliability wa s high. Assignment of BloomÂ’s levels were identical between the tw o raters, except for two questions:
39 The first question asked the student to identify the independent and dependent variable from an example. I rated it as synthesis and my colleague rated it as knowledge. I f eel that this required applying the terms fo r independent and dependent variable to the situational example which is more than a knowledge level. A third colleague ra ted it as comprehension. The second question was: Â“If an individual is diagnosed with metastasizing cancer, list at least 3 mutations that would have been required to develop metast asizing cancer. Then, explain each mutation and why it would be requir ed.Â” I rated this as knowledge but my colleague rated it as application. The first portion of the question required knowledge about the mutations. The second portion requires more of an explan ation which would be classified as comprehension. A third collea gue rated it as comprehension. Nine exams were compared: one exam from an AP high school course, one official practice AP exam, three 2-year course s and 4 4-year courses. [I am currently a faculty member in the UCD Biology Departme nt but I do not teach general biology and I had no role in creating any of th e material evaluated for this research project]. Six of the exams included essay and non-essay (multiple choice, true/false, matching, or one word written answers) questions and three includ ed only non-essay questions. The high school exam and AP exam were not clear in point per question and total percentage for each category could not be determined. The percenta ge of the total exam points dedicated to non-essay questions ranged from 34-100% but the average ac ross exams from 2-year and
40 4-year schools was similar (78% and 79% nonessay, respectively) (Table 6.2). All of the exams included the first three BloomÂ’s levels. Only one exam (AP exam) included all six of BloomÂ’s levels (Appendix Table A.5). The percentage of higher order to lower order questions of the non-essay ques tions varied; the percentage of lower order questions ranged from 29-97% (Table 6.3). The percen tage of questions requiring higher level thinking was 14% for 2-year schools and 24% for 4-year schools (table 6.3). The variation in exam characteris tics between individual course s across and within school types is large. Differences between school type s may exist but a much larger sample size is necessary to assess if that is the case. Table 6.2. Percentage of non-essay questions versus essay questions on general biology ex ams from three 2-year college courses and four 4-year college courses. % Non-Essay % Essay 2-year college course exams 83 17 100 0 50 50 Average 78 22 4-year college course exams 100 0 100 0 84 16 34 66 Average 79 21
41 Table 6.3. Percentage of lower order and higher order nonessay questions on general bi ology exams for three 2-year colleges, four 4-year colleges, one high school AP course and an official AP practice exam. % Lower Order Questions % Higher Order Questions High School AP Exam 81 18 AP Exam 44 56 2-Year College Course Exams 96 4 89 11 74 27 Average 86 14 4-Year College Course Exams 29 69 83 18 97 3 93 7 Average 76 24 There are limitations to the methodology. Th e extremely small sample size is the most significant. Additionally, each exam shoul d be rated by multiple reviewers to ensure inter-rater reliability. Howe ver, having one person review all exams ensured some consistency. The level of difficulty for two que stions can vary even if the BloomÂ’s level is the same. This is not reflected in the results. Some questions may reflect material presented in class which is not obvious when reviewing the exams alone. For example, if an example was discussed during class, the question dealing with this on the exam may actually be a knowledge question but it may a ppear as an application question to a reviewer. Lemons & Lemons (2013) studied how reviewers applied BloomÂ’s Taxonomy to exam questions. They concluded that inst ructors considered a question to be higher order thinking if the time require d to answer was longer, if th e material is conceptually difficult for most students, if there is more than one acceptable response, and if students
42 have had experience with the type of questi on previously. If I had known more about the courses presentation of material, I may have rated the questions slightly differently. Additionally, the exams provide d were self-selected. Many de partments did not respond to my request and may represent very different examples.
43 CHAPTER VII IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS College biology faculty do not perceive th at all general biology courses are the same. This belief seems to be supported by the evidence within Colorado public institutions. Syllabi from a small sample ( N = 9) of general biology courses offered at Colorado 2and 4-year schools s how variation in course desi gn. Only 30% of the courses had detailed learning objectives. Sample exams revealed a range in variation between 369% of questions requiring higher-order thinking according to BloomÂ’s Taxonomy. Students who transferred general biology credit received lower grades in upper division biology courses and withdrew from UCD upper division biology courses more frequently compared to rising UCD students ( N = 2129). Although prior preparation from high school, student demographics and many other fa ctors were unavailable for this project, according to the UCD data, students with tran sfer credit for general biology are at a disadvantage for upper division courses at UCD. General biology is one of the courses agreed upon for the Colorado Biology Transf er Articulation Agreement. Our faculty, administrators and state officials should strive to ensure that every st udent is as likely as any other to succeed in their major. According to this study, there are three ar eas which require attention. First, there is a lack of learning objectiv es. Courses are more effective if there are clear objectives and assessments that address them. If these courses are applied as equivalent there should be common learning goals and objectives. S econd, course assessments should require more higher-order thinking applied more c onsistently across institutions. Low-order thinking (memorization) will not prepare students for future careers, professional or
44 graduate programs. Courses should strive to focus on skills and app lication of material. Third, evaluation strategies are non-existent. There should be mechanisms in place to evaluate the success of students within the state system and ev idence that the system as a whole is supporting them. Communication, co llaboration and profe ssional development can be used to address these issues. Ther e are several specific actions that may be valuable. Communication within institutions falls short of what is needed. Many instructors work on their course development individuall y. These instructors may be unfamiliar with upper division coursework and how the general biology course will be expected to create the foundation for these courses. Each course will emphasize different topics based upon an instructors area of expertise and the material will be presented in different ways. However, there are core topics and skills which should be presented to ensure that students are prepared for the next leve l of course work. Communication amongst instructors is the only way that these cour ses can achieve that goal. The Department Chair, Dean and the Provost should ensure that sections of general biology are consistent and are preparing all students for upper division work. Admini strators should be interested in student outc omes both for economic reasons and to ensure that the institution is meeting their mission. If students are struggling with th eir coursework, they may drop out or transfer to another institu tion Â– lost revenue and missed opportunity to prepare students for future endeavors. Although increasing co mmunication between faculty within a single institution seems simple, many of us realize it is not always. Time is a limited resource and asking faculty to hol d a meeting to discuss learning objective for general biology requires that they prioritize other activities. Some faculty are more
45 interested in teaching and student outcomes than others. It is extremely difficult to impassion someone who is not already inclined to care about such topics. There must also be incentives/disincentives to ensure their participation. Unfortunately, most things will not happen without a carrot or a stick. The administration must set expectations and assess them to ensure that this important work occurs on a regular basis. In my experience, even beginning the conversation is useful and increases awareness of the issues. However, for real change I believe th ere will need to be specific actions which are agreed upon by the group and followed up with the administration. Communication between institutions is al so lacking. The Northwest Biosciences Consortium (NWBC) was established with the goal of having biology faculty across institutions in the pacific northwest co llaborate to improve introductory biology experiences. They are working on revamping co urse descriptions, le arning objectives and creating a concept inventory (Stavrianeas, n.d.). This work will require years to complete. Their products will likely be useful to other regions, including Colorado. In the meantime, perhaps a similar Colorado organi zation could be create d, either with the assistance of the CDHE, Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE), or professional biol ogical societies to at leas t begin the conversation and increase awareness of the problem. I suggest hosting a meeting amongst biology faculty across the state to discuss intr oductory biology courses. The goal is not to have identical classes but to cover the same material and skills and to open a discussion to increase faculty awareness of the poten tial impact on student succ ess. Additionally, high school teachers who are teaching AP, IB, or classes fulfilling college credit should also be included in these discussions. The barriers for in ter-institutional collaboration are similar,
46 yet likely more intense, than the intra-in stitutional communication attempts. In addition, they require organization from an outside source. This may be the CDHE or a new organization similar to the NWBC. The NW BC signed agreements with Deans and Provosts at the institutions they included. This allows for the project to have Â“teethÂ”. The administrators agreed that their institution w ould participate and they are held responsible for the work. Professional development on creating cour se learning objectives, curriculum alignment and other pedagogical tools shoul d be provided to biology faculty in the Colorado system. Many higher education facult y have received little to no pedagogical training and are unfamiliar with how their use can benefit student outcomes. Barriers to getting faculty to engage in professional development are similar to those discussed previously: time and interest in making change. Many institutions offer professional development for faculty but it is primarily volunt ary. I believe that for this topic, it should be established for this particular group (gen eral biology faculty acro ss the state) with the expectation that they will at tend. Hopefully, incentives could be established within each institution (e.g., count as service for their annual evaluation). Pe rhaps a grant could provide funds to have an organizer to create the workshops and work with each institution to set expectations. Currently, many institutions do not reward faculty for teaching excellence. This is larger issue and a conversation for another paper. Due to the lack of current incentives to improve teachi ng, it will be difficult to rely on faculty to participate merely for the benef it of improving their class. Biology faculty across Colorado institutio ns could together design learning objectives for general biology (lecture and lab) or agree to use an al ready existing set of
47 learning objectives. The American Association for the Advancement of Science produced a document called the Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call To Action (2009). This document may be usef ul to guide the discussion. The Missouri Department of Higher Education has created a Curriculum Alignment Initiative and have produced Entry-Level Competencies and Exit-Level Competencies for their general education courses (MDHE, n.d.) in an effort to align coursework from K-12 into higher education. This may be a useful reference for Colorado. Aligning the learning objectives across institutions is an esse ntial component of ensuring that all students have had the exposure to the same material to prep are them for upper division coursework. Exam development is difficult. Workshops on exam development (again with biology faculty across institutions interacting) may result in higher quality exams. The Blooming Biology Tool (Crowe et al., 2008) could serve as a discussion point. The Tool increases awareness of the level of skills required to answer certain types of questions. Additionally, workshops on concept invent ories would provide instructors with information on how to use published invent ories and improve their understanding about effective assessment. There are several cu rrently published concept inventories for aspects of general biology (i.e ., natural selection, cell divi sion, osmosis). Several other topics are currently under construction (DÂ’Avanzo, 2008). Workshops around exam development and potentially other topics w ould allow for collaboration on assessment development. These meetings would provide the opportunity for sharing resources and experiences and networking across the stat e. Additionally, if a workshop produced practical examples of exam questions, assignm ents or other assessments, they could be distributed to all facult y at each institution.
48 A standardized exam could be considered. The American Chemical Society (ACS, 2013) have standardized exams for bot h semesters of general chemistry, organic chemistry and biochemistry. These have been utilized regula rly in many general chemistry classes since the 1970Â’s. These exams are created by faculty for faculty through the ACS. A similar effort for gene ral biology may be extremely helpful in increasing consistency across courses and pr oviding faculty with a measure to compare their students to others around the country. St andardized exams are not the answer but may offer a useful tool. This can be used to improve individual courses or programs. A standardized exam, even if it was not used in a course, could set a se t of expectations for faculty (i.e., level of detail, use of specif ic skills, content covered). One downside to standardized exams includes how to ensure students do not have access to test questions prior to taking the exam. Even if a new exam was created annually, similar to the chemistry exam, students from different secti ons within one institution or from different institutions may share their exams with othe r students. Many faculty believe they have the right due to academic freedom to prepare th eir course in any way they see fit. I donÂ’t believe this is the true meaning of academic freedom, however, this will be a hurdle for gaining consensus to use a standardized exam. More research is needed. A study simila r to this across all institutions and regularly conducted would be valuable for evaluation of our success. Controlling for socioeconomic factors, high GPA, ACT scores current credit hours, and other individual characteristics in the analysis may also be important. There are many aspects of each specific studentÂ’s case which may explain the resu lts seen in the grade data in this paper. Adequate preparation from gene ral biology is only one factor determining how a student
49 will perform in upper division biology courses. A data set to investigat e this is essential to follow up my results. Specific data to asse ss the impact of online courses (lecture and lab) is needed. This was a specific con cern expressed by biology faculty during the transfer articulation discussions. Interviews with transfer biology students may illuminate how their preparation differed from rising students. If more alignment work occurs between the 2-year and 4-year schools, data should be collected before, during and after the process. Although common sense informs us that alignment between general biology and upper division biology classes is crucial for student success, there is no literature demonstrating the impact of these efforts.
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53 Lui, J. (2013). Grades of the Not So Modeled: Asian American and Pacific Islander Transfer Students at Middle University. Community College Journal of Research & Practice 37 (3), 205Â–215. Melguizo, T., Kienzl, G. S., & Alfonso, M. (2011). Comparing the Educational Attainment of Community College Tran sfer Students and Four-Year College Rising Juniors Using Propens ity Score Matching Methods. Journal of Higher Education 82 (3), 265Â–291. Missouri Department of Higher Education. (n.d.). Curriculum Ali gnment Initiative. Retrieved from http://dhe.mo.gov/cai/ Montondon, L., & Eikner, A. E. (1997). Comp arison of community college transfer students and native students in an upper level accounting course. Community College Review 25 21Â–38. National Student Clearinghouse Research Cent er. (2012). Snapshot Report: Outcomes of Two-to-Four Transfer Students. Retrieved from http://nscresearchcenter.org/snapsho treport-degreeattainment2/#more-966 Porter, S. (1999). Assessing Transfer and Native Stude nt Performance at Four-Year Institutions. AIR 1999 Annual Forum Paper. Retrieved from http://0search.ebscohost.com.skyline.ucdenver .edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN =ED433790 Roksa, J., & Keith, B. (2008). Credits, Time and Attainment: Articulation Policies and Success after Transfer. Educational Evaluation & Policy Analysis 30 (3), 236Â– 254. Stavrianeas, S. (n.d.). Abstract: Introduc ing the NWBC: Introductory Biology for All Students. Retrieved from http://visio nandchange.org/abstract/introducing-thenwbc-introductory-biol ogy-for-all-students/ Townsend, B., Carr, D., & Scholes, R. (2003). A Comparison of Transfer and Native StudentsÂ’. Transfer & Articulation Confer ence (2nd, Tampa, FL, July 2003). Retrieved from http://0search.ebscohost.com.skyline.ucdenver .edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN =ED480570 U.S. Department of Commer ce Economics and Statistics Administration U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.) Census Regions and Divisi ons of the United States. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/geo/maps-data/ma ps/pdfs/reference/us_regdiv.pdf Whitfield, M. (2005). Transfer-Student Pe rformance in Upper-Division Chemistry Courses: Implications for Curri cular Reform and Alignment. Community College Journal of Research & Practice 29 (7), 531Â–545.
55 APPENDIX Faculty Perceptions of Genera l Biology Equivalencies Survey I am working on a dissertation in educa tion at University of Colorado Denver focused on the equivalency of general biology co urses. One of my research questions is: Do biology faculty perceive high school genera l biology classes for co llege credit, 2-year and 4-year general biology classes as equiva lent? I am interested in responses from biology faculty across th e country and would appreciate if you would complete this 6 question anonymous survey (approximately 3 minutes) by February 28th, 2014. It would be great if you could forward the survey li nk to other biology faculty who may not access the PULSE website regularly. This project has been approved by the UCD IRB. If you have any questions about this research, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you! 1. Where did you encounter the link for this survey? AAAS PULSE website Email from a colleague Other (please specify) 2. Are you currently a biology faculty at a 2-y ear institution or 4year institution? Are you currently a biology faculty at a 2-ye ar institution or 4-year institution? 2year 4-year Other (please specify) 3. Please indicate the state wher e your institution is located. 4. Do you believe that introductory biology co urses taught at 2-year colleges provide equivalent preparation (in content, skills and ri gor) to the same course taught at a 4-year school? Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Disagree Comments 5. Do you believe that introductory biology co urses taught at high schools which produce college credit (i.e., AP, IB) provide equivalent pr eparation (in content, skills and rigor) to the same course taught at a 4-year school? Strongly Disagree Disagree Agree Strongly Disagree Comments 6. Would you like to provide any general co mments pertaining to this study?
56 Table A.1. Common open-ended responses from biology faculty to the question of: Do you believe that introductory biology c ourses taught at 2-year colleges provide equivalent preparation (in content, skills a nd rigor) to the same course taught at a 4-year school? (N=88) Common open-ended responses Number of similar responses Varies between instructors betw een and within institutions 20 Varies between institutions 19 Mention more rigor in 4-year classes compared to at least some 2-year classes 14 More skill development from 4-year (writing, memorization, flipped class, inquiry-based, integration, higher-level thinking, investigation, use of case studies, application, interpre tation of data literature) 11 Mention students from 2-year classes are less prepared 10 Concern about labs being equivalent (4 of the responses indicated CC labs are less technical/rigor) 8 Describe transfer shock (requires reme diation, lower grades, struggle after transferring, etc.) 7 Community colleges offer small clas s sizes and do not use teaching assistants so you have the expe rience of a faculty member 6 2-year students outperform 4year/2-year more rigorous 5 More communication is needed betw een 2and 4-year institutions 4 Differences being if the cour se is intended for majors/nonmajors/combination 4
57 Table A.2. Common open-ended responses by biology faculty to the question of: Do you believe that introductor y biology courses taught at high schools which produce college credit (i.e., AP, IB) provide equivalent preparation (in content, skills and rigor) to the same course taught at a 4-year school? (N=93) Common open-ended responses Number of similar responses Courses vary between and within institutions, mostly because of instructor variability 32 Skills (content covered but mostly through memorization; lacking application, integration, etc.) 25 Less successful in college classes (Â“unable to even describe what a cell isÂ”) 17 Labs are not as technical (often due to lack of resources) 10 Resources lacking at the high schools 7 Teach to the test 4 HS class better 4 Content is missing 4 Redesign of AP is improving 3 Student characteristics vary (less mature, less focus, etc.) 3 Table A.3. Most common biology courses required for a biology major at the 11 Colorado public 4-year schools that offer a biology major. Me rged cells indicate combined topic course. Adams Mesa CSU (Major in Biological Sciences) CSU-P Ft. Lewis Metro UCB (MCDB Major) UCCS UCD UNC Western TOTALS Cell x x x x x x x x 9 Genetics x x x x x x x x x x x 11 Ecology x x x x x x x x x 7 Evolution x x x x 6 Microbiology x x 2
58 Table A.4. Details of assessments from individual general biology syllabi from Colorado public institutions. Number and type of exams % of final grade Exams Lab Lecture quizzes Clicker Homework High school AP course ? + final exam 60 30 10 2-year schools 5 exams 39 29 7.8 24.6 4 tests+ cumulative final ? 25 ? ? 3 exams + cumulative final 55 32 ? ? 4-year schools 2 exams 50 separate course 28 10 10 4 exams (drop one) 60 separate course 20 20 4 exams (drop one) + cumulative final 75 25 3 exams (drop one) + cumulative final 71 Separate course 14 14 4 exams ? Separate course ?
59 Table A.5. Percentage of each question type and BloomÂ’s level for general biology exams from three 2-year colleges, four 4-year co lleges, one high school AP course and an official AP practice exam. BloomÂ’s Level Knowledge Comprehension Application Analysis Synthesis Evaluation AP courses and exams AP high school course First semester final exam Non-essay 60 21 16 1 Essay 33 66 AP exam Non-essay 5 40 23 30 2 Essay 16 11 21 32 21 5 2-year schools Midterm exam Non-essay 69 20 11 Final exam Non-essay 51 23 24 1 1 Essay 20 10 60 10 Exam 1 Non-essay 56 40 4 Essay 55 27 18 4-year schools Final exam Non-essay 9 20 64 6 Exam 2 Non-essay 40 43 18 Final exam Non-essay 71 22 7 Essay 59 29 12 ? Non-essay 97 3 Essay 25 50 25