|Commenced in January 2007||Frequency: Monthly||Edition: International||Paper Count: 2|
This research was performed to investigate the study habits and level of difficulty perceived by post-secondary students in Biology at Advanced-level topics after completing their first year of study. At the end of a two-year ‘sixth form’ course, Maltese students sit for the Matriculation and Secondary Education Certificate (MATSEC) Advanced-level biology exam as a requirement to pursue science-related studies at the University of Malta. The sample was composed of 23 students (16 taking Chemistry and seven taking some ‘Other’ subject at the Advanced Level). The cohort comprised seven males and 16 females. A questionnaire constructed by the authors, was answered anonymously during the last lecture at the end of the first year of study, in May 2016. The Chi square test revealed that gender plays no effect on the various study habits (c2 (6) = 5.873, p = 0.438). ‘Reading both notes and textbooks’ was the most common method adopted by males (71.4%), whereas ‘Writing notes on each topic’ was that mostly used by females (81.3%). The Mann-Whitney U test showed no significant difference in the study habits of students and the mean assessment mark obtained at the end of the first year course (p = 0.231). Statistical difference was found with the One-ANOVA test when comparing the mean assessment mark obtained at the end of the first year course when students are clustered by their Secondary Education Certificate (SEC) grade (p < 0.001). Those obtaining a SEC grade of 2 and 3 got the highest mean assessment of 68.33% and 66.9%, respectively [SEC grading is 1-7, where 1 is the highest]. The Friedman test was used to compare the mean difficulty rating scores provided for the difficulty of each topic. The mean difficulty rating score ranges from 1 to 4, where the larger the mean rating score, the higher the difficulty. When considering the whole group of students, nine topics out of 21 were perceived as significantly more difficult than the other topics. Protein synthesis, DNA Replication and Biomolecules were the most difficult, in that order. The Mann-Whitney U test revealed that the perceived level of difficulty in comprehending Biomolecules is significantly lower for students taking Chemistry compared to those not choosing the subject (p = 0.018). Protein Synthesis was claimed as the most difficult by Chemistry students and Biomolecules by those not studying Chemistry. DNA Replication was the second most difficult topic perceived by both groups. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to examine the effect of gender on the perceived level of difficulty in comprehending various topics. It was found that females have significantly more difficulty in comprehending Biomolecules than males (p=0.039). Protein synthesis was perceived as the most difficult topic by males (mean difficulty rating score = 3.14), while Biomolecules, DNA Replication and Protein synthesis were of equal difficulty for females (mean difficulty rating score = 3.00). Males and females perceived DNA Replication as equally difficult (mean difficulty rating score = 3.00). Discovering the students’ study habits and perceived level of difficulty of specific topics is vital for the lecturer to offer guidance that leads to higher academic achievement.
Gamification has now started to take root in the post-secondary classroom. Educators have learned much about gamification to date but there is still a great deal to learn. One definition of gamification is the ability to engage post-secondary students with games that are fun and correlate to class room curriculum. There is no shortage of literature illustrating the advantages of gamification in the class room. This study is an extension of similar thought as well as an extension of a previous study where in class testing proved with the used of paired T-test that gamification did significantly improve the students’ understanding of subject material. Gamification itself in the class room can range from high end computer simulated software to paper based games of which both have advantages and disadvantages. This analysis used a paper based game to highlight certain qualitative advantages of gamification. The paper based game in this analysis was inexpensive, required low preparation time for the faculty member and consumed approximately 20 minutes of class room time. Data for the study was collected through in class student feedback surveys and narrative from the faculty member moderating the game. Students were randomly selected into groups of four. Qualitative advantages identified in this analysis included: 1. Students had a chance to meet, connect and know other students. 2. Students enjoyed the gamification process given there was a sense of fun and competition. 3. The post assessment that followed the simulation game was not part of their grade calculation therefore it was an opportunity to participate in a low risk activity whereby students could subsequently self-assess their understanding of the subject material. 4. In the view of the student, content knowledge did increase after the gamification process. These qualitative advantages identified in this analysis contribute to the argument that there should be an attempt to use gamification in today’s post-secondary class room. The analysis also highlighted that eighty (80) percent of the respondents believe twenty minutes devoted to the gamification process was appropriate, however twenty (20) percentage of respondents believed that rather than scheduling a gamification process and its post quiz in the last week, a review for the final exam may have been more useful. An additional study to this hopes to determine if the scheduling of the gamification had any correlation to a percentage of the students not wanting to be engaged in the process. As well, the additional study hopes to determine at what incremental level of time invested in class room gamification produce no material incremental benefits to the student as well as determine if any correlation exist between respondents preferring not to have it at the end of the semester to students not believing the gamification process added to the increase of their curricular knowledge.