Preprints are early versions of research articles that have not been peer reviewed. They should not be regarded as conclusive and should not be reported in news media as established information.
new 07march23 disengagement final exam student performance.pdf (1.65 MB)
Download file

Unintentional disengagement is a factor in the failure of a final exam in a moderate-structure cell biology course

Download (1.65 MB)
posted on 2023-03-07, 10:02 authored by ijsbrand kramerijsbrand kramer, frédérique Pellerin, Jean-Luc Bergey

This study is situated in the problem of student retention in a first-year science course at a large, open-enrollment university. The study examines student performance in a moderate-structure cell biology course characterized by group classroom activities, frequent knowledge quizzes, a mid-semester exam, and a moderate impact final exam. The design is learning-oriented with a gradual transition from an external, instructor-based arrangement, to an internal, student-based arrangement. Although, consistent with numerous reports, we observe much better overall student performance in this course format, the improvement is largely due to scores on the quizzes and mid-semester exam, with little improvement on the end-of-semester final exam. Using self-reports, scores, and learning analytics from a population of 462 students, we sought to understand what factors contributed to this phenomenon. We found that despite good intentions, an awareness of essential cognitive skills, and an a priori appreciation of the subject matter, about a quarter of the students dramatically reduced their viewing of web-based learning materials in the period leading up to the final exam. This group scored well below average. We conclude that unintentional disengagement is a factor in failing the final exam. 


Declaration of conflicts of interest

The lead author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Corresponding author email

Lead author country

  • France

Lead author job role

  • Higher Education Lecturer

Lead author institution

University of Bordeaux

Human Participants

  • Yes

Ethics statement

Our university does not have an Institutional Review Board to determine what surveys or student behaviour analyses may be conducted. In accordance with APA ethical compliance guidelines (, this study does not require written consent because it involves normal educational practices with respect for confidentiality. Information is treated and published anonymously so that disclosing responses would not expose participants to criminal or civil liability or harm their financial standing, employability or reputation. Students were informed at the beginning of the course that we were conducting a study of how they functioned in the moderate-structure format, that participation in the surveys was voluntary, and that whether or not they participated would not affect their course grades in any way. We also mentioned that we might use the data for a scientific publication and that the results would be presented anonymously (no names revealed).

Terms agreed

  • Yes, I agree to Advance terms


Log in to write your comment here...