Eastern New Mexico University’s philosophy of general education (Undergraduate Catalog 1995-1997) states that “traditionally, one purpose of the bachelor’s degree at a state university has been to prepare graduates for a lifetime of learning and responsible citizenship.” Specifically in the areas of the sciences, graduates of Eastern should be able to “understand and apply scientific principles and develop an awareness of the role of science and technology in the contemporary world.” To assist the University, faculty, and the general education committee in assessing the success of the general education curriculum, the CAAP Science Reasoning scale is administered. Students also participate in focus groups and complete a locally developed survey.
|CAAP Performance by Combination of Courses|
The CAAP Science Reasoning scale is designed to measure students’ skills in scientific reasoning. The contents of the science reasoning test are drawn from biology, chemistry, physics, and the physical sciences (e.g., geology, astronomy, meteorology). The test emphasizes scientific reasoning skills rather than recalling scientific content or being highly skilled in mathematics or reading. A stimulus on the test may conform to one of three different formats: data representation, research summaries, and conflicting viewpoints.
The national norm, reported for fall of 1995 for public four-year college sophomores, is a 60.6 with a standard deviation of 4.7. Eastern students from the fall of 1993 through the spring of 1995 have averaged 59.51 with a standard deviation of 4.41. There is a steady decline in these scores, which is statistically significant. Students in the fall of 1993 scored a 60 (s.d.=4.36, n=5.55), in the spring of 1994 a 59.44 (s.d.=4.21, n=94), in the summer of 1994 a 59.41 (s.d.=5.05, n=17), in the fall of 1994 a 58.83 (s.d.=4.57, n=148), and in the spring of 1995 a 57.4 (s.d.=4.57, n=76).
When students who self-reported that they began at Eastern as first-time freshmen are compared to students who self-reported that they transferred to Eastern, native freshmen scored slightly higher (59.53 vs. 59.49), and this is not a statistically significant result. Also, men scored higher than women on the CAAP Science Reasoning scale (59.86 vs. 59.28), and this, likewise, is not a statistically significant result. When scores are compared by students’ self-reported ethnicity, white students, those who self-reported “other”, and those who "preferred not to respond” scored highest [means are 60.4 (s.d.=4.46, n=538), 60.15 (s.d.=3.34, n=13), and 60.07 (s.d.=4.76, n=73), respectively]. Mean scores for other ethnic groups are: African-Americans=55.38 (s.d.=3.37, n=48), American Indians/Native Americans=59.46 (s.d.=3.73, n=24), Mexican Americans/Chicanos=57.8 (s.d.=3.67, n=98), Asians=57.6 (s.d.=3.27, n=10), other Hispanics=57.57 (s.d.=3.41, n=68), and Filipinos=62 (s.d.=7.08, n=2). These results are statistically significant and are consistent with CAAP results in all scales, whereas ethnic minority students are consistently scoring lower than white students.
Students’ mean scores in biology, chemistry, geology, and physics on the CAAP Science Reasoning test may be found on pages 2 and 3 in box plot diagrams. A breakdown of these results follows.
Of the students in the cohort who took Biology 113, 92 received a letter grade of “A” and achieved a mean CAAP Science Reasoning score of 61.08. One hundred twenty-three students earned a letter grade of “B” and achieved a mean score of 60.02, 130 students earned a letter grade of “C” and achieved a 58.25, 45 students earned a “D” and scored a 56.73, and 16 students earned an “F” and scored a 57.5.
Of the students in the cohort who took chemistry, 32 students earned the letter grade of “A” and achieved a mean score of 62.12, 39 students earned a “B” and scored a 60.49, 60 students earned a “C” and scored a 59.62, 18 students earned a “D” and scored a 56.94, and 4 students earned an “F” and scored a 55.0.
Of the students in the cohort who took geology, 86 earned a letter grade of “A” and achieved a mean score of 61.26, 103 earned a “B” and scored a 58.63, 56 earned a “C” and scored a 57.82, 25 earned a “D” and scored a 55.76, and 7 earned an “F” and scored a 57.86 on average.
In the cohort for students who took physics, 20 earned an “A” and achieved a mean CAAP Science Reasoning score of 63.15, 27 earned a “B” and scored a 60.81, 14 earned a “C” and scored a 59.29, and 7 earned a “D” and achieved a mean score of 60.29
Of the students who have completed the CAAP, an analysis was also conducted of the courses taken to meet the science requirement. Students who completed physics with a passing grade (that is a letter grade of C or better) achieved a mean score of 62.69 (n=16). Scores for course distributions, in descending order, for the remaining members of the cohort are: students who took 3 or more classes scored a mean of 60.87 (s.d.=4.54, n=36), students who passed both biology and chemistry scored a mean of 60.68 (s.d.=4.29, n=57), students who just took chemistry scored a mean of 60.33 (s.d.=3.81, n=36), students who took biology and physics scored a mean of 60.26 (s.d.=3.99, n=16), students who took chemistry and geology scored a mean of 60 (s.d.=4.47, n=6), students who took chemistry and physics scored a mean of 59.41 (s.d.=3.51, n=5), students who just took geology scored a mean of 59.32 (s.d.=4.25, n=81), students who just took biology scored a mean of 59.15 (s.d.=4.09, n=122), students who took biology and geology scored a mean of 59.13 (s.d.=3.95, n=118), and students who took geology and physics scored a mean of 59.13 (s.d.=3.52, n=8). Students who passed no classes at Eastern with a “C” or better scored on average a 59.26 (s.d.=4.85, n=389); however, it is unclear if these students took math courses at other institutions. (The last chart on page 3 graphs these mean CAAP scores).
|Focus Group Responses|
Randomly selected graduating seniors were invited to participate in focus groups commencing in the fall of 1995. Though 100 students were invited, 10 such students participated. For a summary of these comments, please see the box entitled “Focus Group Responses” to the right. These same students were also asked to complete a short questionnaire on their learning in general education here at Eastern. When asked to respond to the statement, “I understand and can apply scientific principles and have an awareness of the role of science and technology in the contemporary world,” all students either agreed or strongly agreed. When asked to respond to the statement, “The general education program at ENMU improved my scientific understanding and applications,” again, all students either agreed or strongly agreed with this statement.
As in past issues, it seems the qualitative information collected in focus groups and surveys clearly indicate that students do achieve general education goals here at Eastern. The qualitative data collected through the CAAP is less conclusive, primarily because it is difficult to know what type of coursework transfer students have taken, as well as their ability in the sciences when they begin here at Eastern. As usual, these results are offered to the campus community to encourage their consumption.
Just a quick note. This is the final DATAWave of the 1995-1996 academic year. Shortly, a survey for the DATAWave and the Assessment Resource Office will be mailed to you. As always, we welcome your suggestions for improvement of the services offered to the University community.