Prevention is better than cure: using diagnostic testing to help weaker students

Regan, Aine and Childs, Peter (2011) Prevention is better than cure: using diagnostic testing to help weaker students. [Conference Proceedings]


Increased numbers of students seeking third level education in Ireland has resulted in many choosing science programmes for which they are not adequately prepared. This study aims to increase retention amongst weaker students in undergraduate science programmes. An Intervention Programme was designed for three course groups of students, previously identified as low achievers. This programme consisted of two semesters of tutorials: Part 1 focusing on Chemistry basics and Part 2 focusing on the mole and chemical calculations. The tutorials utilised various strategies: peer learning and assessment, formative assessment and the use of concept questions. A pre- and post-diagnostic test of chemical concepts and misconceptions was administered in the first and last tutorial session and students' performance was measured in both tests. The pre-diagnostic tests were used to design the Intervention Programme to meet the students' specific needs and address their weaknesses. The results of the Intervention Programme were positive. In both parts, students did significantly better in the post-diagnostic test than in the pre-diagnostic test. In this paper we report on Phase 2 of the project which involved interventions in two semesters (parts 1 and 2). In this phase we not only assessed student's knowledge of basic chemistry and misconceptions, but also assessed their confidence and attitudes towards chemistry. At the end of the two parts of the intervention we also interviewed two students from each class group to gain deeper insights into both their difficulties with chemistry, their attitudes towards chemistry and their views on the value of the intervention project. A grant was obtained from NAIRTL for 2010-11 to support Phase 2 of the intervention. While the results are encouraging, poor attendance in both the main module and in the Intervention Programme will have affected the results.

[thumbnail of NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf]
NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf

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