Increasing URM Undergraduate Student Success Through Assessment-Driven Interventions: A Multiyear Study Using Freshman-Level General Biology as a Model System.

Funding Source

Howard Hughes Medical Institute

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Department of Physics and Computer Science - Dual Degree Engineering

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Xavier University of Louisiana leads the nation in awarding BS degrees in the biological sciences to African-American students. In this multiyear study with ∼5500 participants, data-driven interventions were adopted to improve student academic performance in a freshman-level general biology course. The three hour-long exams were common and administered concurrently to all students. New exam questions were developed using Bloom’s taxonomy, and exam results were analyzed statistically with validated assessment tools. All but the comprehensive final exam were returned to students for self-evaluation and remediation. Among other approaches, course rigor was monitored by using an identical set of 60 questions on the final exam across 10 semesters. Analysis of the identical sets of 60 final exam questions revealed that overall averages increased from 72.9% (2010) to 83.5% (2015). Regression analysis demonstrated a statistically significant correlation between high-risk students and their averages on the 60 questions. Additional analysis demonstrated statistically significant improvements for at least one letter grade from midterm to final and a 20% increase in the course pass rates over time, also for the high-risk population. These results support the hypothesis that our data-driven interventions and assessment techniques are successful in improving student retention, particularly for our academically at-risk students.