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Type: Conference paper
Title: “Am I chasing my tail?” - An evaluation of student perceptions to an evolving 3rd year undergraduate course
Author: Botten, J.
Citation: The Education Research Group of Adelaide (ERGA) conference 2010: The Changing Face of Education, 24-25 September, 2010
Publisher: The University of Adelaide
Issue Date: 2010
Conference Name: ERGA Conference (5th : 2010 : Adelaide, Australia)
Abstract: Despite the fact that academic staff spend many hours designing what they consider to be effective courses and information rich course manuals, it is often the case that some students will simply “miss the point”, that is they miss (or misunderstand!) a vital piece of information that would allow them to excel in, and equally importantly, value and enjoy the course. Complications arise in the fact that which point is missed depends on the student in question. Thus changes made with the intent to improve the course for subsequent cohorts may result in a similar outcome i.e. some students will still miss the point! This observation has been made on numerous occasions by the author, particularly in Practical classes (“practicals”). Whether a student “misses the point” can make all the difference to how students perceive the relative value of the Practicals. This is ably demonstrated by Collis et al (2007) who reported on an evaluation of 1st year Bioscience students and their perception of practicals. The diversity of responses ranged from “long, boring and tedious” through to “interesting, fun and enjoyable”—no surprises there! What this study highlights is the need for a continuing dialogue to promote improvements in the course, leading to higher levels of student satisfaction. The current study investigates student perceptions in response to changes in the practical classes and assessments in a 3rd year undergraduate course. Student perceptions were evaluated in the context of two specific aims; 1) to verify anecdotal observations that students do value and enjoy practical classes, and 2) to identify specific concerns with the assessments, address the identified concerns and evaluate the effectiveness of the changes that were introduced. Student perceptions were evaluated by completion of voluntary evaluation forms which addressed three key areas of interest: the usefulness of the course handbook, assessments and the practical experience. As a point of reference for student perceptions prior to enrolment into the course, students were asked why they wished to enrol in this course. Anecdotal evidence (Morona et al, personal communication) suggested that good marks in prerequisite courses were a major driver for enrolment. This was found not to be the case—rather it was interest in the subject area and obtaining a specific major that were the dominant reasons. The data obtained from this study supports the opening observation—that in any cohort of students, some will simply not understand what is required of them, regardless of the information they receive. This was clearly evident in the most recent changes made to the course. Assessment feedback was identified as being deficient; a new assessment model resolved this issue, but with a less than positive response to the supplied guidelines. Despite this apparent frustration, most students did find the course manual to be relevant, the assessments to be well supported by the supplied criteria and did value the practical experience. The contrast between this positive outcome and the identified areas that need improvement will be discussed in further detail.
Description: Copyright © 2010 The University of Adelaide
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Appears in Collections:Aurora harvest 5
Molecular and Biomedical Science publications

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