Abstract Detail

Education and Outreach

Erkens, Roy [1].

A free-form assignment instead of an exam to stimulate students’ motivation and retention of botany knowledge.

Exams are still the most widely used type of assessment in order to estimate the learning of university students. However, it has been shown that exams stimulate unwanted behaviour such cramming and that retention of information is not optimal. Furthermore, an exam is an external driver for studying and learning, and often does not intrinsically motivate students for the topic they have studied. In this talk I share my experiences with an alternative way of assessment, a free-form assignment, in my General Botany class at Maastricht Science Programme (Maastricht University, The Netherlands). This seven-week module is designed around the concepts of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and Adult Learning Theory. It is one of the few botany courses in this programme and therefore aims at 1) intrinsically motivating students to learn as much as possible about the field of botany, 2) have them cover all topics that would be part of a traditional botany class, 3) reach a high(er) level of understanding of these topics. For this assignment, students need to select a context (scientist, policy maker, civilian, etc.) and a format (written work, poster, podcast, etc.) from a pre-set list but can select a case to work on themselves. While going through the course, the students apply the knowledge they learn during PBL tutorials to their case. In week three and six, they write a self-assessment and submit their draft free-form assignment to their peers for feedback. In week seven, they hand in their final work. In combination with interactive lectures and small-group (standing) PBL tutorials this class motivates students to use the botanical knowledge in a, for them, relevant way. I will share the rationale for the design, my experiences with this format in comparison to previous designs, and elaborate on the experiences of students based on the self-assessments and (course) evaluations. Students overall highly appreciate the format and feel it makes the botanical knowledge much more interesting for them. Also, it stimulates them to think about botany outside of the context of the class room, hopefully triggering more longer-term retention of knowledge and providing them with a greater love and appreciation for plants.

Related Links:
Educational programme where this module is taught

1 - Maastricht University, Maastricht Science Programme, P.O. Box 616, Maastricht, 6200MD, The Netherlands

problem-based learning
self-directed learning
contextual learning
collaborative learning
constructive learning.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Number: EO2002
Abstract ID:73
Candidate for Awards:None

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