A recent change in all sections of BIO 121, a general education course for the anatomy major, has some University of Rhode Island students breathing a sigh of relief after testing in the class has been changed to a partial group effort.
Students taking the class will be required to take an individual test with 85 percent of their individual score being counted toward their grade. After turning in their individual test, they will take the same test in a group, which will count for 15 percent of their test grade.
URI Professor Jason Ramsay, of the department of biological sciences, and kinesiology Professor Dr. Kimberly Fournier worked together to make this possible.
“The exams, the way they were normally arranged, created a lot of anxiety,” Ramsay said. “There were so many times that we talked to students after exams and they said ‘I know that stuff, but I was so nervous and stressed out that I couldn’t focus.’”
Ramsay said that it gives students another opportunity to learn. “Those exams were always a major tipping point for so many people and we said, ‘It’s time for something new,’ and those are the major reasons why we’re doing it.”
The two professors are keeping a lot of test components the same, they are just putting them together differently to hopefully get a better outcome, according to Fournier. The reason they chose a two-stage exam method was because it has a tendency to reduce the anxiety level.
“They have the support right there in the exam and they get immediate feedback,” she said.
A problem with individual exams that Fournier sees is that the professor will not necessarily have class time to go over every answer, requiring students to come to office hours and go through the exam one by one to get feedback on what they might have done wrong.
“Most won’t come in, and that is a really valuable learning experience,” said Fournier. With the group testing method, she believes students are leaving the exam having learned the information. “More than anything else, you know what the answer is when you leave regardless of what your score is, that’s the most important thing.”
Also being implemented in only a few classes is the “flipped classroom” method. Fournier said that students will have online assignments learning basic information that will better prepare them for the upcoming lecture.
“Gathering this information outside of class will allow it so that when students come in, we can take that information to the next level together as a class,” she said.
Former student Nicole Michel, a sophomore that took the class before the test change, said she was very nervous going into it.
“The tests were very difficult if you didn’t study every single day,” she said.
A student taking the class this semester, sophomore, Kelsey Meleady, said that she heard rumors about how the class was challenging.
“Now I’m less stressed and I think it’s more doable and I’m going to learn more,” she said.
“I’m very confident that this new method will work, they are scientifically proven to,” Ramsay said. If proven ineffective, Ramsay said that they will most likely switch back to a more formal design. He said that they are going to do more research and see how this semester goes.