The students apply knowledge obtained in lecture concerning genotype, mutations, and phenotype to an article about a mutant strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa - a frequent cause of pneumonia in cystic fibrosis patients. Traditionally they struggle with two questions in particular. For Sp 09 the average on the hw was 60%. In F09 I when I handed out the assignment I gave them 5 min at the end of class to discuss the questions with their buddy. I told them I was NOT going to give any answers, it was just time for them to brainstorm with a partner. They completed the assignment outside of class and turned it in for the next lecture. The average was 73% and for Spring 10 the average was 82%. Interestingly, I had forgotten I did this (I think being div chair knocked it out of my brain) and for this semester (Sp13) the average was back to 64%. Last semester I had an SI (a really good ex-student) who would work with the students right after class when they recieved their hw. The average was 75%. This emphasizes the importance of working/studying right after obtaining information in the classroom.
Bronwen, this is exactly what CATS is about! So, in Fall 13, will you do it as you did this spring, or will you do anything differently?
I will definitely go back to the 5 min brainstorm, I am so surprised that I forgot all about it. I am SO GLAD I went back and looked at my old SAAC EZs. I went through all of them to see if there was something else like this I had missed, luckily there wasn't.
I've noticed that including "brainstorming" time for math projects also increases students' understanding. I think you're right, that working on a topic immediately after it's presented is key to retaining the main points. I also think that the act of defending your viewpoint to a peer requires you to organize your information and ask examine questions you may still have about the subject.
Bronwen, I think you inadvertently made a fairly robust research design study: A-B-A-B (where “A” is the class without brainstorming, and “B” was the class with it). It is clear that the “B” classes performed much better than the “A” classes. I also appreciated how you include average grades on the assignment in your CATS form so we can see what an improvement they made.