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Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department of Graduate Psychology
Sara J. Finney
John D. Hathcoat
Student learning is the primary desired outcome of a college education. To understand how educational programming and curricula affect students, colleges and universities must collect evidence of student learning gain. In this study, a longitudinal design was employed to investigate how a math and science general education curriculum impacted college students’ quantitative and scientific reasoning. Quantitative and scientific reasoning gain scores were computed and predicted from personal (i.e., prior knowledge, gender) and curriculum (i.e., number of completed courses in the domain) characteristics to uncover what factors relate to learning gain. Collapsing across personal and curriculum variables, gain scores were moderate (average of 3.72 out of 66 points) with little variation and were not predicted by personal or curriculum characteristics. Disaggregating gain scores by coursework revealed that students had modest learning gains after completing one course but did not gain with additional coursework. Given performance on the quantitative reasoning test has no personal consequence for the students (i.e., low-stakes test), low examinee effort could attenuate student learning gain estimates. Therefore, gain scores and gain score predictions were estimated again after data from unmotivated students were removed (i.e., motivation filtering). Test-specific and test-session specific motivation measures were used to filter unmotivated students; results were compared to determine if they are measure-dependent. The learning gain estimates derived from using the two motivation measures were not different from each other or the unfiltered estimates. Faculty expectations of learning gain estimates were assessed. Faculty overestimated the learning gains of students with quantitative and scientific reasoning coursework. Findings imply that students are not learning as much as expected or desired from their coursework and further investigation is necessary to explain why.
Mathers, Catherine E., "Student learning gains in higher education: A longitudinal analysis with faculty discussion" (2017). Masters Theses. 494.