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Effects of a Learning Strategies Course On At-Risk, First-Year Science Majors

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In order to address the problem of under-prepared students in a required introductory biology course for science majors (i.e., General Biology), faculty developed a Biological Sciences Tutorial. This one-credit tutorial was conducted for a group of at-risk students selected from the general course population during two semesters. First-year students were identified through a stepwise regression model that included SAT verbal and mathematics scores, high school GPA, age, and a score from a biomathematics skills test. A group of students with predicted grades below 1.8 were required to enroll in the tutorial concurrently with their enrollment in General Biology. Instruction in the tutorial centered on teaching students to use effective learning strategies such as listening, textbook reading, studying, and note taking. Students analyzed and evaluated their learning styles. They developed portfolios with journal entries on various self-selected topics and exercises requiring the application of learning strategies to General Biology. Results of students' enrollment in the course are mixed. Refinement of the tutorial in Study II showed positive changes in learning behavior as a result of information provided by the LASSI inventory: at-risk students can benefit from learning new strategies and immediately applying them to science content. Selection of a limited number of strategies is more productive than offering students an unmanageable number of strategies during a semester. The tutorial students achieved higher final grades han at-risk students in the control group. A total of 89% of at-risk students believed they had improved as self-directed learners as a result of taking the tutorial.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2002

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  • The Journal of The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition is a semiannual refereed journal providing current research on the first college year and other significant student transitions. The primary purpose of the Journal is to disseminate empirical research findings on student transition issues that inform practice in all sectors of postsecondary education, such as explorations into the academic, personal, and social experiences (including outcomes related to success, learning, and development) of students at a range of transition points throughout the college years; transition issues unique to specific populations (e.g., non-traditional, traditional, historically underrepresented students, transfer students, commuters, part-time students); and explorations of faculty development, curriculum, and pedagogical innovations connected to college transitions.
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