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Assessment of Marquee Courses in Science and Technology

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The Marquee Courses in Science and Technology Assessment (Marquee Course Assessment) was developed by the Marquee Faculty, a faculty learning community composed of 15 associate and full professors from STEM fields who designed and teach the Marquee Courses in Science and Technology.

The Marquee Course initiative, led by the Dean for Undergraduate Studies, is a set of 9 courses aimed at science literacy for non-majors. The courses were designed around significant unanswered questions in STEM fields (e.g., the global energy crisis and the pollinator crisis). Courses have an interactive design employing strategies such as teamwork, projects, poster sessions, and discussions.

The Marquee Course assessment was designed to measure the effectiveness of these courses in meeting the Marquee initiative student learning outcomes, which include relating science to a personal situation and recognizing the limits of science. It is an online instrument composed of six multiple-choice questions (one question per learning outcome) along with a request for open-ended comments about the course experience and a request for demographic data (e.g., major, number of college credits completed). The survey was developed over several years of iterations where Likert-style questions were paired with requests for explanations. The open-ended explanations were highly informative and provided a source of data for understanding student thinking. The open-ended responses ultimately served as the basis for the multiple-choice responses of the final multiple-choice Marquee Course assessment.

Using the Marquee Course assessment, we collected pre- and post-course data from approximately 450 students enrolled in 7 different Marquee courses representing distinct STEM disciplines (including Engineering, Biology, Astronomy, Geology, and Physics) in Fall 2012 and Spring 2013. The Marquee faculty collaboratively reviewed the data from the perspectives of the Marquee initiative and the individual courses.

We found that the Marquee courses allowed students to see science as applicable to themselves across multiple dimensions. Furthermore, the Marquee course experience caused a shift in student views towards a more global perspective. Based on open-ended questions about the course experience, 85% of students reported that the courses met or exceeded their expectations, 4% reported that the courses did not meet their expectations, and the remaining students provided neutral responses. The success of this model in engaging non-science majors in embracing the value of science to their personal situation informed the recent redesign of the UMD General Education requirements, and led to the creation of a new category of General Education courses: the I-Series courses.

These courses are modeled on the Marquee Courses in Science and Technology and challenge faculty from all disciplines to design courses that address important, complex societal questions using innovative teaching approaches. The assessment strategy for the I-Series courses follows that of the Marquee Course assessment in that student attitudes related to I-Series learning outcomes are assessed and discussed by the I-Series faculty community at the initiative and course level. For more information about Marquee Courses see: http://www.marqueecourses.umd.edu/. For more information about I-Series courses see: http://www.gened.umd.edu/.