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Unintentional disengagement is a factor in the failure of a final exam in a moderate-structure cell biology course
  • ijsbrand kramer,
  • frédérique Pellerin,
  • Jean-Luc Bergey
ijsbrand kramer
University of Bordeaux

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frédérique Pellerin
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Jean-Luc Bergey
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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.