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Evaluation of Assessment and Tuition Changes for S284 Astronomy

  • Project leader(s): Mark JonesHelen Fraser
  • Theme: Supporting students
  • Faculty: STEM
  • Status: Current
  • Dates: June 2020 to December 2021

Astronomy is a subject area with broad appeal, being a topic of interest both for students intending to specialise in astrophysics and for those who simply wish to know more about our place in the Universe. This has presented challenges to previous modules in astronomy, resulting in low retention, completion and pass rates (even compared to STEM Faculty averages), even though student SeAM survey results typically have 95 – 97 % satisfaction ratings!

S284 has been designed from the outset not only to be accessible to students from a wide range of backgrounds, but also to be more engaging and student focussed. The main areas of innovation in the module are:

  1. an assessment strategy that combines “short but often” continuous assessment with a purely on-line examination,
  2. a tutorial strategy that shifts the emphasis back towards active learning and focussed on student needs, and
  3. a greater emphasis on building the student-tutor relationship (e.g. through telephone conversations).

We will analyse the effect of these innovations on student success by examining analytic data. This is unlikely to be sufficient to provide a deep understanding of the effect of our innovations, so we propose to probe both the AL and student experiences of these changes.  

In the first phase of the project (the 2020J presentation & this proposal) we will use focus-group methods to draw out AL reflections on their teaching practices. Student analytic data will be used to develop an understanding of how the student cohort responded to innovation in tuition.   

Student experience will be explored in more depth in a second phase (2021J presentation) in which we will work with LDS to implement an immediate “feedback” system which would interrogate their feelings about ‘tutorial’ elements of online learning. These personal experiences would be combined with detailed SAS analytics data (from the A4A team) to develop a deep understanding of the student experience on the module.

Ultimately a successful outcome would be improved retention, completion and pass rates on S284 as compared to S282, coupled with overall higher AL and student satisfaction.  

Related Resources: 
File Mark Jones and Helen Fraser.pptx79.77 KB

Project poster.