Assessment of Students Performance

School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences

2004-2005

 

Overview of the School

 

 

The primary focus of the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences is teaching.  The spectrum of teaching is quite broad ranging from working with students having very poor academic backgrounds to conducting independent research programs to prepare students for graduate and professional programs.  The overall quality of majors within the School is excellent.  The best of our graduates continue to be in great demand for professional and graduate schools, teaching, or business and industry.  They have received numerous offers from graduate schools including the following: Purdue (Plant Pathology), Tulane (Chemical Engineering), Washington University (Chemistry),  Northwestern (Applied Mathematics, Chemistry), and Rice (Chemistry).  Several rising seniors have participated in summer research programs at campuses throughout the region.  The number of graduates is modest (see Appendix) but this is consistent with state and national trends.   In addition to placements in graduate school, three undergraduate students were admitted to various pharmacy schools (UAMS, ULM, and Nova Southeastern University.)

 

One measure of student performance is the level of academically-related activity outside the classroom.  The School encourages students to become involved in extracurricular activities.  The Biology Club and the Medical Sciences Club are very active.  During the past few years several students expressed an interest in having an honorary society for mathematics and science majors.  In 2003, a core of students initiated the efforts to form a campus chapter of Sigma Zeta which were successful.  Dr. Dolberry serves as the primary advisor.

 

Many students are active in research projects.  The following is a listing for the past year of Student presentations made at state and national meetings:

 

1.         McConnell, R.M. Myers, Nikki; Wells, Brittney; Hatfield, Susan.; Godwin, W.E.;  Synthesis and Biochemical Assay of New Cathepsin D Inhibitors Containing Cyclic Tertiary Amines.  227th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Undergraduate Research Symposium, Anaheim, CA. March 2004, Biochemistry PS905.

 


2.         McConnell, Rose M.; Godwin, Walter E.; Green, Adam; Lindley, James; McConnell, Matthew S. Synthesis of Doped Co-polymers of Furan with Pyrrole or Thiophene.  NASA-Arkansas Space Grant Symposium. Lyon College, Batesville, AR  April 2004, CHEM 17.

 

3.         McConnell, Rose M.; McConnell, M.S.; Green, A.; Young, A.; Young, L.; Godwin, W.E.  Doped and Undoped Co-polymers of Polyfuran, Pyrrole, and Thiophene.  229th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Undergraduate Research Symposium, San Diego, CA.  2005, CHED 408.

 

4.       McConnell, Rose M.; Trana, C.J..; Green, A.; Strickland, H.; Sayyar, K..; Godwin, W.E.  New Cathepsin D Inhibitors with Hydroxyethyl Cyclic Tertiary Amines. 229th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Undergraduate Research Symposium, San Diego, CA. March 2005, CHED 1142.

 

5.         Green, Adam; Trana, Carol; Hatfield, Susan; McConnell, Matthew S.;  Young, Ashley; Young, Lauren, Sayyar, Kelley, Walter Godwin, and Rose McConnell.  Synthesis and Evaluation of New Cathepsin D Inhibitors.  89th Annual Meeting of the Arkansas Academy of Science Meeting, Hendrix College, Conway, AR. April 2005, PS 044.

 

6.         Green, Adam, McConnell, Matthew S.; Young, Ashley; Young, Lauren, Trana, Carol; Sayyar, Kelley; Godwin, Walter; and McConnell, Rose M.  Preparation and Characterization of Doped Copolymers of Polyfuran.  13th Arkansas Space Grant Symposium, Fayetteville, AR. April  2005, CHEM 003.

 

7.         McConnell, Matthew S.; Green, Adam, Young, Ashley; Young, Lauren, Trana, Carol; Sayyar, Kelley; Godwin, Walter; and McConnell, Rose M.  Copolymers of Polyfuran: Doping, Chemical Synthesis and Electrical Conductivity Studies.  12th Annual Arkansas Undergraduate Research Conference, Arkadelphia, AR. April 2005, CHEM 007.

 

8.         Lynde, L.; Burford, J.; Curtis, C.; and Richard, G. Analysis of a Two-Stage Probability Problem.  Arkansas Conference on Teaching,  Little Rock AR.  November 5, 2004

 

Some Assessment Measures and Tools

 

There are several standardized measures of student performance available.  The one affecting the greatest number of students is the CAAP examination.  This is an ACT generated test measuring achievement in the core curriculum.  The following table summarizes the performance of Math/Science majors on the CAAP test during the past year:


 

 

 

CAAP Scores

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT Scores

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year

Writ. Skills

Math

Reading

Sci Reas

Essay 1

Essay 2

 

Eng

Math

Read

Sci R

Comp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1999

64.25

59.25

64.00

60.75

3.94

3.94

 

21.43

18.29

21.71

22.00

21.00

2000

65.20

60.20

63.67

62.27

2.80

3.03

 

23.80

21.80

25.00

22.47

23.47

2001

NA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2002

65.50

60.10

64.10

63.40

3.40

3.10

 

24.30

23.30

24.00

22.90

23.80

2003

65.91

61.18

63.27

62.91

2.82

2.89

 

22.18

21.09

24.40

24.20

24.20

2004

64.18

58.82

61.71

61.18

3.06

2.88

 

23.08

22.15

24.38

22.23

23.00

M&S Mean

65.01

59.91

63.35

62.10

3.20

3.17

 

22.96

21.33

23.90

22.76

23.09

Local Mean

62.5

 

55.9

59.7

58.6

3.0

2.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

National

Mean

64.5

58.1

62.5

61.1

3.3

3.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Math/Sci. students significantly outperformed the average UAM student in all areas and had better scores than the national means in all areas other than the two essays.  This is an indicator of superior performance and/or ability of these students.  It should be noted that these students have ACT scores which are significantly better than those of the average entering UAM student but not necessarily better than those of the average entering college student nationwide. 

 

 

 


 

 

Unified Final Examinations in Mathematics

 

Students in all sections of Introduction to Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Survey of Mathematics, College Algebra, and Trigonometry all take the same final examination for each course.  This does not provide data for comparison to other schools but does provide an internal measure which assists the faculty in modifying the courses to improve student performance.  Each of these courses has a course coordinator who reviews the test results and meets with the faculty teaching the course.  The course committee analyzes the results and then strives to make changes which will improve student performance in the course.  Typically the course committee will note areas of weakness and attempt to modify the course so that these concepts and or topics are dealt with in either more detail or in a different manner.  The course committees also attempt to align courses so that they function in the desired manner.  As an example, Intermediate Algebra must prepare students for College Algebra.  The course committees may decide that a topic previously covered in College Algebra should be shifted to Intermediate Algebra or vice versa.

 

Students completing both General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry are given nationally normed American Chemical Society (ACS) Examinations as final examinations. Scores on these exams indicate that our students are continuing to perform near the national average especially in Organic Chemistry.

 

The Senior Seminar in Evolutionary Biology is a capstone course for the Biology major.  Students research a topic, synthesizing information from both the library and their own class and laboratory experiences.  Students present their findings orally to their peers and the biology faculty.  Students also submit a written paper.

 

Students approaching graduation take a variety of nationally normed tests such as MCAT (medical school), DAT (dental school), PCAT (pharmacy school), GRE, and Praxis(teacher licensure).  The number of students taking any one of these tests in a given year is minimal usually varying from 0 to 3 students in any year.  Performance on the GRE and Praxis is normally quite satisfactory.  Performance on the MCAT is frequently disappointing while performance on the PCAT tends to be somewhat unpredictable. 

 

Exit Interviews of Students

 


The School surveys all graduating Math/Sci. students on their experiences at UAM.  This is an open-ended survey essentially asking students to list what they liked and dislike about UAM.  The results are fairly predictable.  Many students have general complaints such as inadequate parking, lack of extracurricular activities, local laws on alcohol consumption, etc.  The comments of direct interest to the School are praise or criticism of specific instructors, appreciation of small class size and the attention given them by particular faculty, and willingness of faculty to help them.  The most frequent criticism is the infrequency with we offer some upper-level courses, particularly in mathematics and chemistry courses.

 

Graduate Surveys

 

The School also periodically surveys graduates in a manner similar to the exit interviews of graduating students.  The results are quite similar.  The graduates are less harsh in the occasional criticisms of particular faculty and are even more enthusiastic in their praise of the general and specific efforts of the faculty.  This is especially true of the students who have entered graduate and professional programs.  They were happy with the small class sizes but again are critical of the scheduling of upper level courses.

 

Overview by Discipline

 

Major Field:   BIOLOGY

 

Actual Assessments Conducted in 2004-2005

 

Senior Seminar in Evolutionary Biology.  This course serves as a capstone course for the Biology major.  Students research a topic, synthesizing information from both the library and their own class and laboratory experiences.  Students present their findings orally to their peers and the biology faculty.  Students also submit a written paper.

 

Performance on Standardized Exams.  Students seeking admission to Medical School took the nationally normed entrance exam, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT.)

 

Job Placement and Acceptance Rate into Professional School.  The mathematics and sciences faculty are able to gauge the success of our students through word of mouth, correspondence with graduates, and contact with professional schools.  Medical schools annually submit names of our students admitted to their programs. Allied Health advisors inquire of appropriate programs about the status of our students' applications. An annual summary of recent alumni placement is published each winter in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences' alumni newsletter.  The newsletter also solicits news and comments from alumni.

 

Practices Used to Access How Well the General Education Program Prepared Students for Study in the Biology Major

 

Rising Junior Exam.  Results of the mathematics and scientific reasoning sections of the rising junior exam will be evaluated for information bearing on how well General Education offerings have prepared biology majors.


Seminar in Evolutionary Biology.  Successful completion of this course requires the student to think, to speak formally to his or her peers and instructors, and to organize and write a scientific paper based on library research and undergraduate experiences in science lectures and laboratories.  There are also weekly writing assignments.

 

 

Major Field: Chemistry

 

Planned Assessment Activities for 2003-2004

 

Two semester courses are offered in the major areas of chemistry including General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and Biochemistry. In addition, one semester courses are offered in other areas of chemistry including Inorganic Chemistry and Organic Analysis. All of these courses, with the exception of the second semester of Biochemistry, include both lecture and laboratory components. Student=s mastery of the fundamental concepts is measured in the lecture portion of the courses while the application of these concepts is measured in the laboratory portion. The laboratory portions integrate investigation of reactions, both wet and instrumental analytical techniques, data analysis, library research, and the use of computers. Standardized American Chemical Society (ACS) examinations are given in several of the courses. Comparison of the student=s scores with national norms is routinely performed. Undergraduate chemical research is available to the students and the students are strongly encouraged to participate in research. Off-campus undergraduate research opportunities are available in the summer and students are again encouraged to take advantage of these. Success in research is a good measure of the student=s synthesis of the concepts and techniques which they have learned.

 

In addition to the chemistry courses, students are required to take a large number of mathematics courses and encouraged to take others. This mathematical knowledge extends the basic mathematical component of general education. This knowledge is tested using many quantitative problems on exams including many applications of Calculus in the Physical Chemistry course. Communication skills are also tested in numerous written laboratory reports and discussion questions on exams where appropriate. A seminar course has been introduced to evaluate the oral presentation abilities of the students. In addition, students participating in research normally present results at regional and national meetings.

 

Actual Assessment Activities

 

Required Course Work. The required course work for the chemistry major is spelled out in considerable detail. Students are encouraged to take the required work in the proper order and to do as well as possible in the major courses. This progress is carefully monitored during advising. A new internal checklist prepared by the School will aid in this effort. The students are also strongly encouraged to continue steadily with the required upper-level mathematics courses required for the major.


Standardized Examinations. Students were given nationally normed American Chemical Society (ACS) Examinations as final examinations in both General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry. Scores on other nationally normed exams, such as GRE, PCAT, and MCAT, were also evaluated in those cases where the exam was taken by one of the students.

 

Chemical Research. Students are encouraged to preform chemical research as a part of their curriculum. This research may be either in the form of formal course work or in the nature of paid work involved with a grant. These students also present formal presentations at local, state and national meetings. This research provides the student with a better understanding of how the typical research chemist operates.

 

Job Placement and Success in Graduate Schools. Through contact with alumni and  graduate schools, the faculty are able to judge the success rate of our students after leaving school. This involves monitoring the progress in graduate work for those going to graduate school and job success and satisfaction for those going directly to professional employment after graduation.

 

Results

 

Required Course Work. Current students are making reasonable to good progress toward completing their degrees. Enrollment in upper level chemistry courses is currently good including an enrollment of seven in Physical Chemistry.

 

Standardized Examinations. Students completing both General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry were given nationally normed American Chemical Society (ACS) Examinations as final examinations. Scores on these exams indicate that our students are continuing to perform near the national average especially in Organic Chemistry. The performance of both chemistry majors and other students taking various professional school admission teats has been monitored. Scores on most of these exams for those students who have completed the appropriate course work continue to be reasonable. There continues to be a noticeable difference in chemistry-related sections for students who have completed more chemistry courses.

 

Chemical Research. Two students made presentations at the American Chemical Society National Meeting in Orlando, FL as well at the annual meeting of the Arkansas Academy of Science at UALR. Other presentations were given at the the SURF meeting at Henderson State and ASGC meeting at Arkansas Tech. The students did an excellent job and were a credit to the chemistry program and to UAM in general. Four students are currently working on various research projects. The results of some of this research will be presented at American Chemical Society, Arkansas Academy of Science, SURF, and possibly ASGC  meetings this spring. At least one student has applied for summer undergraduate research programs for the coming summer.

 

Major Field:   Mathematics


Actual Assessments Conducted in 2003-2004

 

Required Standardized Exams.  In addition to the CAAP, students planning to teach take the PRAXIS while those planning to attend graduate school normally take the GRE.

 

Rising Junior Exam.  All mathematics majors who take CAAP exams meet with their advisors and discuss the results.  The performance of students in the mathematics and scientific reasoning sections of the rising junior exams will be evaluated for information bearing on how well General Education offerings have prepared mathematics majors as well as other students.

 

Employer Surveys & Acceptance Rate to Graduate Schools.  Through word of mouth, visits with graduates, and contact with graduate schools, mathematics faculty are able  to measure the success of our students.  Of the 2002 graduates in mathematics, all but one pursued a career in teaching.  These graduates easily found positions and feedback from their school=s is very positive on the quality of their work.  The remaining graduate received a generous fellowship from Northwestern University to study applied mathematics.  Thus far she has been very successful in her studies.

 

Student Activities.  Mathematics majors and mathematics education majors were actively involved in professional and campus activities.  Several students attended the regional meeting of the Mathematical Association of America held in Tulsa, OK.  Two students made presentations at the Arkansas Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual meeting.  One student is scheduled to make a presentation at a professional meeting this summer.

 

Service Component.  The mathematics program consists of courses comprising the mathematics major and minor as well as courses offered in service of General Education and other majors.  General Education students are placed in an appropriate mathematics course based on their ACT score or a placement test (conducted by the School).  In multiple-section courses with unified content, (Introductory Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, College Algebra, and Survey of Mathematics) each course coordinator submits a report detailing the number of students taking the final exam, a distribution of scores and a summary of the item analysis (if available).  The information is organized and disseminated to the faculty teaching the course.  With this background, the faculty adjusts the course each semester to address problem areas.  This information is also useful in assessing potential new texts.

 

Other Majors.  Part of the mission of the Mathematics program is to offer courses for General Education as well as major and minor  requirements in other disciplines.  School of Forest Resources majors, Chemistry, and Biology majors are all required to take courses more advanced than college algebra (or its equivalent) in their curricula.  All students are required by state law to complete at least one mathematics course as sophisticated as College Algebra.

 


Problems/Recommendations/Plans for the Future

 

First Year Courses

 

The mathematics faculty feels that the lack of student success in first-year mathematics courses (Introductory Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Survey of Mathematics, and College Algebra) is the area of greatest concern.  Some of the continuing efforts to address this problem are:

 

Each course has a coordinator and a committee which meet throughout the semester to synchronize sections, discuss pedagogical problems, an develop tests and supplemental material;

 

The faculty conduct several study sessions for students prior to each test;

 

Many faculty attempt to involve their students through group activities in and out of the classroom;

 

In addition to posted office hours, the faculty are widely available to students;

 

Peer tutors are available to assist students at most hours of the day;

 

Instruction incorporates appropriate technology for the course and students are expected to have graphing calculators for College Algebra and Survey of mathematics.

 

Several instructors, especially of College Algebra, have successful incorporated homepages into instruction.  Again, there will be more activity in this area in the future.

 

 

The faculty is aware that they must continuously attempt to improve these courses.  The faculty does feel that the vast majority of students with an appropriate background who make moderate effort to succeed are successful. 

 

In addition during the past year, the faculty have taken the following approaches:

 

1.                  The previous report cited a new policy concerning the repetition of mathematics courses.  This policy is :

 

Students who wish to enroll more than three times in a specific mathematics course other than MATH 0143, Introduction to Algebra, must take/repeat the prerequisite for the course.  Exceptions to this rule are made if the student is successful on a challenge examination developed by the mathematics faculty.  The student must show that he/she has the potential to complete the course.


 

This policy went into effect the Spring 2002 semester.  Enforcement was inconsistent for that semester but has improved significantly since then.  Many students are unhappy with the policy but those who have repeated the prerequisite course appear to be performing at a higher level and to be more successful.  After repeating the course, several students have said that they felt it was extremely beneficial.

 

 

2.                  The faculty is hopeful that some form of interactive computer instruction can be used in these courses either to augment or supplement standard classroom activities.  Initial experiments at UAM have not been successful but this is a very promising area.

 

3.                  Student attendance and motivation continue to be the major factor in poor performance in these courses.  Students are required to attend these classes and those who do not are normally removed from the course.  This has the discouraging result in decreasing the success rate but it may eventually result in students taking the course more seriously especially if the student is required to repeat the prerequisite course.  Certainly poor attendance is a byproduct of poor motivation.  In addition to attempting to present the material in an interesting and relevant manner, the faculty are constantly seeking to motivate their students by showing their enthusiasm for the subject and their concern for the student.  That many are successful in these endeavors is evident by the student evaluations.

 

4.                  One mathematics faculty member has received an EdD focusing on developmental mathematics education.  The mathematics faculty hopes to take advantage of her expertise in this area by placing her in charge of the developmental mathematics program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Appendix

 

 

 

Mathematical And Natural Sciences Graduates by Year by Major

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

94-95

 

95-96

 

96-97

 

97-98

 

98-99

 

99‑00

 

00‑01

 

01‑02

 

02‑03

 

03‑04

 

04‑05

 

Total

 

Mean

 

5 Yr Mean

 

Biology

 

6

 

6

 

10

 

11

 

13

 

6

 

6

 

9

 

4

 

12

 

10

 

93

 

8.45

 

8.2

 

Chemistry

 

2

 

3

 

4

 

3

 

3

 

5

 

4

 

2

 

2

 

4

 

2

 

34

 

3.09

 

2.8

 

Mathematics

 

3

 

5

 

2

 

5

 

1

 

4

 

5

 

5

 

5

 

3

 

9

 

47

 

4.27

 

5.4

 

Natural Science(added 2001)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

1

 

5

 

2.50

 

2.5

 

Physical Science(deleted 2001)

 

0

 

0

 

1

 

1

 

0

 

0

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

0.29

 

 

 

Physics (deleted 1998)

 

2

 

1

 

2

 

2

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

 

1.60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

13

 

15

 

19

 

22

 

18

 

15

 

15

 

16

 

11

 

23

 

22

 

189

 

17.18

 

17.4