Did the Assignment Do What You Wanted? Examining the Correlations between Learning Processes and Class Assessments

Article excerpt

We examined the correlations between students' scores on the Inventory of Learning Processes (Schmeck, Ribich, & Ramanaiah, 1977) and on the different assessments in a cognitive psychology course (and the total points). We determined that many of the assessments evaluated the type of learning the instructor wanted the students to engage in during the course (i.e., deep and elaborative processing of the material). Knowing the extent to which instructors thoughtfully develop assignments, we suggest that following this model (i.e., correlating student learning processes with course assignments to evaluate these assessments' effectiveness in measuring the types of pre-determined learning) provides instructors with important objective data on what occurs in their classes.

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Since students' learning processes have been shown to positively relate to academic achievement (such as GPA, course grades, and entrance exams) and to differentiate between students' final course grades (Albaili, 1993, 1994; Bartling, 1988; Boyle, Duffy, & Dunleavy, 2003; Gadzella, 1995; Gadzella & Baloglu, 2003; Gadzella, Ginther, & Bryant, 1997; Gadzella, Ginther, &Williamson, 1986, 1987; Gadzella, Stephens, & Baloglu, 2002; Kozminksy & Kaufman, 1992; Lockhart & Schmeck, 1983; Miller, Alway, & McKinley, 1987; Miller, Finley, & McKinley, 1990; Schmeck & Grove, 1979; Watkins, Hattie, & Astilla, 1983; Westman, 1993), it would seem important for faculty to verify that their course assessments evaluate the type of learning the faculty member intends. For instance, if a faculty member values having students critically evaluate the information read in a newspaper article on a medication's effectiveness in treating depression, the faculty member may assign students to read and critically assess an empirical article on this topic. The question that arises is if this assignment reflects the instructor's goal of measuring critical thinking. One method to determine if the assignment measures critical thinking is to calculate the correlation between the students' grades on the assignment and their scores on a measure of learning processes. If a positive correlation exists between the students' grades and their scores on the learning processes measure, we can assume that doing well on the assignment involves critical thinking.

To date, scant literature exists demonstrating such a process. Lockhart and Schmeck (1983) describe such a process for a research methods course. In their research study, the instructor had students complete the Inventory of Learning Processes (ILP; Schmeck, Ribich, & Ramanaiah, 1977), a learning styles inventory, at the beginning of the semester. At the end of the semester, Lockhart and Schmeck examined the regression coefficients for the subscales of the ILP, the three tests the students took, a research paper they completed in the course, and a computer task. Lockhart and Schmeck found that most, but not all, of the predicted pathways occurred. Gadzella et al. (2002) conducted a similar study in which they examined the relationships between the subscales of the ILP and objective-type tests in an educational psychology course. They found that the Deep Processing subscale correlated with most of the tests, Fact Retention with all of the tests, and Elaborative Processing with only the first test. Gadzella et al. focused more on determining the relationships between the ILP subscales and the tests in the course to inform students about how the type of test being taken should influence their study methods, rather than on a process to inform faculty members on whether the assessments used measured the type of learning they wanted.

The current study replicates Lockhart and Schmeck's (1983) process of actively examining the correlations between the learning processes of students in the course and the assessments used in the course. However, the current study involves investigating these relationships in a cognitive psychology course. …