Students who feel unprepared for college find "traditional" teaching tools less helpful

Jeffrey Henriques's picture
Increasing Student Success

Students in two sections of introductory psychology, N = 615, were asked about the utility of traditional, e.g. lectures and textbook, and nontraditional, e.g., clickers, and online resources teaching tools. Students, who felt unprepared for college (23.6%), differed from their peers in their perceived utility of these tools. While there was no group difference in the usefulness of the novel tools, underprepared students found traditional tools to be less helpful.

Colleges and universities are admitting a greater diversity of students into their institutions, and not all incoming students have received the same academic preparation in their high school educations. The Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) is a useful online tool that allows instructors to get feedback from students about their learning gains in a course and the perceived utility of different teaching and learning tools.

Students in two sections of introductory psychology, N = 615, completed the SALG at the conclusion of the Fall 2008 semester. Students were asked about the utility of traditional teaching tools, e.g. lectures, textbook, and instructor, and novel or nontraditional teaching tools, e.g., podcasts, clickers, and online resources, such as lecture slides, review quizzes, content related links and frequently asked questions. Additionally, students were asked whether they felt that their high school education had adequately prepared them for college learning.

Almost one quarter of students (23.6%, n = 145) reported that they felt that high school had not adequately prepared them for college. Reflecting this perception of inadequate preparation for college, these students reported that the pace of instruction was not as helpful as students who did feel prepared for college, F(1,613) = 15.68, p < .001. Students who felt unprepared for college also reported less overall learning across the class, though this difference was not statistically significant, F(1, 613) = 3.15, p < .08.

The students’ perceived average utility of traditional and novel teaching tools was examined by way of a two-way Group (Prepared/Unprepared) X Tool (Traditional/Novel) analysis of variance (ANOVA). There was a main effect for type of teaching tool, F(1,613) = 408.11, p < .001, which was the result of traditional teaching tools such as lecture and textbooks being rated as more useful than novel tools such as podcasts and clickers. Of most interest was a significant Group X Tool interaction, F(1,613) = 4.62, p < .05, indicating that the two groups of students perceived the utility of the two types of teaching tools differently. There was no difference in the perceived utility of the novel or nontraditional teaching tools between the two groups of students F(1,613) = .03, p > .85. There was, however, a significant difference in students’ ratings of traditional teaching tools. Students who felt unprepared for college found these tools to be less helpful than their peers who felt prepared for college work, F(1,613) = 7.78, p < .01.

These results suggest that faculty could help underprepared students by providing instruction on to how to identify key points from their lectures and from the course texts. Additionally, these data suggest that all students would benefit from faculty making greater use of newer teaching tools such as podcasts, clickers, and online material such as lecture slides, review quizzes, and answers to frequently asked questions.

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