Concept-Based Assignments Used as Study Guides: Facilitating Learners Input into Education

Sunday, 8 November 2015: 11:20 AM

Jennifer B. Drexler, MSN, RN, CCRN
College of Nursing, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA

Through course evaluation and verbal feedback from students, evidence for implementation of new teaching practices and the development of new teaching assignments to engage the learner, as well as provide additional study methods beyond the classroom is needed. Conceptual-based assignments were created to be used as student-generated study guides that produce student engagement in the classroom, student-centered learning, and student self-evaluation of learning. These assignments go beyond typical homework and answering questions, by integrating classroom activities, lecture, and instructional information into assignments completed for a grade. Student generated learning through guided completion of assignments allows students to create their own study guides for exams. Evaluation of outcomes includes determining the effectiveness of the assignments and the students’ perception of learning utilizing the assignments, as well as overall performance of exams.

The purpose is to provide students with self-directed, conceptual-based assignments to guide study for exams. The assignments are topic specific to the exams and are to be used to study and focus the learner’s concentration on materials. Exemplars are used for the concepts with a review of anatomy and physiology with diagrams for self-directed study. The students did not receive feedback on assignments prior to exams. All students participated in the assignments and exams over the course of the 4 month semester. The dilemma was to provide a student-centered instructional method that would be helpful to understand the conceptual approach to teaching, as well as be a self-examination of knowledge obtained through lecture and class-activities.

Assignments were designed to guide the student through processing information being delivered in class and create a written tool to direct the student studying for exams. Four assignments were developed as study guides to be completed during off-class time, and to be submitted on the day of the exam. This was developed not to test the students learning, but to help distinguish important topics and facts they would later be tested on. The diagrams are discussed with classroom activities.

Topics were Type 1 & Type 2 diabetes and alterations in ventilation caused by COPD (including Asthma, Emphysema, and Chronic Bronchitis), using a Venn-diagram to distinguish differences and similarities. Alterations in perfusion related to the heart structure anomalies and alteration in pressure was another topic, provided in a chart format for students to determine where signs and symptoms would be presented based on a forward or backward flow problem. The final assignment was alterations in hormones, also presented in a chart format for students to first detail the hormonal pathway, and then distinguish signs and symptoms based on alteration in hormone levels (hypo- & hyper-).

The students were surveyed at the end of the semester using a 5-point Likert scale to determine the effectiveness of the assignments and the students’ perception of learning utilizing the diagrams provided in the assignments. 99% of the students feel the assignments helped guide studying before the exam. 97% of the students feel that additional assignments ease anxiety of preparation for exams. 100% of the students felt that assignments help off-set test grades for overall achievement in the class. Based on feedback received the majority of the students found the assignments helpful in studying for the exams, and all students appreciated the off-set of the grade by inclusion of the assignments in the overall grade. Additional results to be provided from this Spring Semester as comparison.

Instead of structured and formulated learning methods, students are given a method to generate their own study guides based on materials knowingly to be tested on. The assignments were not meant to be graded for completeness or accuracy, but rather that effort in learning, researching, and generating all knowledge possible was included. Points were given based on the detail provided within the assignments, and that the assignments were completed based on the instructions provided.