Research Experiences to Enhance Learning
The REEL (Research Experiences to Enhance Learning) program was designed to introduce a more realistic laboratory experience to first and second year chemistry students. Sponsored by the Chemistry Division of The National Science Foundation, a REEL experiment is based on research, rather than the "cookbook" experiments usually encountered in the laboratory. Unlike inquiry-based models, in which the instructor knows the intended result, the REEL experiments have no known outcome; it is true research. This element of 'new discovery' embedded into the experiment promises to make this a very exciting lab experience.
The Evaluation Assessment Center is serving as the external evaluator for REEL program, which involves 15 institutes of higher education in Ohio. The evaluation will assess the extent to which the project meets the following major goals:
- To transform the first- and second-year chemistry curriculum to a research-intensive curriculum;
- To increase the retention and graduation rates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields; and
- To generate new knowledge in the chemical sciences through multi-site faculty-student research projects.
In order to assess the effect of the program on students, the PIs, the senior personnel and the evaluation team are conducting both quantitative and qualitative longitudinal study comparing student outcomes from the new research-intensive chemistry labs with a matched student sample participating in traditional chemistry lab settings.
The evaluation will occur at several levels (students, faculty, online learning communities, classrooms, and higher education institutions). Questionnaire data and focus group interviews will be used. The E&A Center will advise and cooperate with the PIs of the project, as well as provide both formative and summative reports on various project outcomes. Specifically, the Center will identify and/or develop appropriate instruments, protocols, and methodologies to assess the project’s goals. Further, it will ensure that all instruments are valid and reliable. Although some data will be collected annually (e.g., course enrollment worksheets), other data will be collected at the beginning and end of the project (to compare pre- and post-consortium membership).
By introducing these modules into the first and second year general, analytical, and organic chemistry courses, students develop complex reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making skills much earlier in their college experience. Additionally, they gain a realistic perspective of what laboratory research is like, and focus on the experience rather than the “right answer”.
The REEL project evaluation is being administered at each institution as research modules are being implemented. The following aspects of the program are being evaluated:
- Student attitudes and backgrounds (questionnaire)
- Chemistry concept test (general chemistry)
- Course content (comparison of laboratory content before and after implementation of REEL research modules)
- Classroom observation, instructor & student interviews
- Student tracking (retention, STEM majors, STEM graduates, participation in traditional undergraduate research)
The E&A center designed the questionnaires, students participating in the REEL program fill out the survey at all the institutions in the consortium, and the data generated will be analyzed by the evaluation team at Miami University. We will publish only the results from the statistical analysis as well as student comments from the evaluation data. Student participation in our evaluation is voluntary and we receive student consent before administering the questionnaire or interviews. The course content evaluation is administered during the first year to obtain baseline data pertain to student input, guided inquiry, research application, and exercises involving best research practices. A comparative study will be performed during the third year to identify the statewide impact of REEL modules on the chemistry curriculum.
Position Name Institution Evaluation Coordinator Ted Clark Ohio State University Evaluation and Assessment Team Jane Kahle
Miami University Faculty & Teaching Assistant Development Judy Ridgway Ohio State University