Incorporating Student Learning Outcome (SLO) Quizzes in MyMathLab
SLO Background at My College
I teach mathematics at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. In the course outline for each of our developmental mathematics courses we have a list of 8 – 11 Student Learning Outcomes (SLO’s). For example, here are the SLO’s for Intermediate Algebra.
1. Solve absolute value equations and inequalities.
2. Solve rational and quadratic inequalities.
3. Add, subtract, multiply, and divide complex numbers and radical expressions.
4. Solve radical equations.
5. Solve equations that are quadratic in form and their applications by factoring, extracting roots, completing the square and the quadratic formula.
6. Identify and graph the following conic sections whose equations are given in standard form: circles, parabolas, ellipses, and hyperbolas.
7. Understand and apply the definition of a function, function notation, and the vertical and horizontal line tests.
8. Graph and determine the domain and range of the square root function, the absolute value function, the squaring and cubing functions, the reciprocal function, and the exponential and logarithmic functions including translations and reflections of these core graphs.
9. Find the inverse of core functions, determining when functions have inverses and recognizing properties of inverse functions.
10. Solve exponential and logarithmic equations including those that require simplification through the use of various properties of logarithmic and exponential functions.
11. Solve applications of logarithmic and exponential equations (for ex: exponential growth and decay, pH, compound and continuous interest, carbon dating, half-life, and earthquake magnitudes).
Our department has chosen to measure our students by giving a 4-question end of semester assessment. Each semester a faculty committee creates a question to measure each outcome and our department chair then selects 4 of these questions that each member of our department will use.
Some instructors give the assessment in class during the last week of the semester, while others incorporate the questions into their final exam.
Currently we grade each question using a 5 point rubric.
- Answer is correct; solutions are well organized and easy to follow.
- Correct Answer – However, solution shows lack of complete understanding of correct mathematical notation including misuse of equal signs.
- Incorrect Answer due to minor miscalculation or minor miscopying error.
- Incorrect Answer – Solution generally on track but stumbled on one aspect of the problem. Work shows good understanding of the main elements of the problem.
- Incorrect answer – two minor errors.
- Incorrect Answer – Solution has major flaws with key elements missing. Solution has gaps in understanding, implementation, and notation.
- Incorrect Answer – Some work beyond recopying or restating the problem, and little understanding of the problem is displayed. Student misses the one aspect of the problem that you are testing.
- Correct Answer with no supporting work.
- No evidence of understanding beyond recopying the given information.
Due to the variation in how the assessment is administered by each instructor and variation in grading (each instructor grades his or her own students), it is tough to compare your own results to those of the department in any way that could be considered fair. However, it does allow an instructor to evaluate his or her own results and compare them to results from prior semesters.
MyMathLab SLO Quizzes
Now that you understand how SLO assessment works at my college, I’ll turn my attention to the series of SLO quizzes that I give on MyMathLab. These quizzes provide me with valuable data about my students with regards to each of our SLO’s. They also help my students to prepare for their final exam at the same time they are reviewing the material that could appear on the end of semester SLO assessment.
For each SLO I create a quiz that contains somewhere between 20 and 30 problems related to that particular SLO. The problems are varied and wide ranging, covering every topic in the course that can be associated with the SLO. For example, for the Intermediate SLO “Add, subtract, multiply, and divide complex numbers and radical expressions.” I include problems that are related to at least 12 of the textbook’s objectives.
In my courses, SLO Quizzes are worth 8.3% of the students’ final grades. (I give 8.3% for MyMathLab homework, 8.3% for MyMathLab quizzes, 8.3% for MyMathLab SLO Quizzes, 50% for pencil-and-paper chapter exams, and 25% for the pencil-and-paper final exam, just for your reference.)
During the last 4 weeks of the semester, I open 2 or 3 of the SLO Quizzes for 1 week at a time. This gets my students to begin preparing for the final exam about a month before the exam. It’s amazing to hear my students talk about how happy they are that they were forced to start reviewing, because they realize that they need to go over many of these topics before the final exam. During the last 2 days of the semester I reopen all of the SLO Quizzes to give my students a chance to rework some of the quizzes.
I do allow my students to take each SLO Quiz as many times as they would like, with their highest score counting. My thought process is that since the student has to retake the whole quiz, rather than just reworking the problems they got wrong, that I should encourage this type of extra effort. Just to be clear, most of students take each quiz only once, but my hard working students that want to succeed to repeat these quizzes several times.
I look over the grades for the entire class on each SLO Quiz, and I also run Item Analysis on the results. This helps me to determine which topics I need to discuss at the end of the semester as we prepare for the final exam.
I compare the results to the results from my final exam after the semester is over. If a class did poorly on a particular SLO Quiz and just as poorly on the problems on the final exam that relate to that SLO, then I reflect on my teaching methods for that topic and look for more effective ways to help my students understand this material. I get a snapshot of my performance that is in many ways more reliable than our college’s SLO assessment.
If your department uses MyMathLab, my SLO Quizzes can be adapted and used as a way for an entire department to generate data concerning SLO’s. You can create one set of quizzes that each instructor can use, and MyMathLab’s easy to use export function will allow you to assemble all of the data you will ever need. You can combine all of the results into one spreadsheet and track results such as success on a particular SLO, compare SLO Quiz results to overall success rates, measure effectiveness of new approaches, and perform countless other analyses.
One college that has used a similar approach is Lone Star College – Montgomery. Their success has been documented in the Making The Grade V3, which is available at http://www.mymathlab.com/makingthegrade_v3.pdf. (You can also find successful projects from other colleges using MyMathLab in this paper.)