Academic journal article Education

Assessing Student's Knowledge of the Aging Process

Academic journal article Education

Assessing Student's Knowledge of the Aging Process

Article excerpt

Of the 260 million people comprising the population of the United States in 1995, approximately 13%, or 33.5 million, were 65 years of age or older (Atchley, 1997). Everyday during 1995, 5,575 people celebrated their 65th birthday (AARP, 1996). In addition to the 65 and over population, another 13% of the American population was between the ages of 50-64 (Atchley, 1997). Thus, more than one-quarter of the American population was over the age of 50 in 1995.

While the demographics are impressive, the impact of the "baby-boom generation" reaching retirement age has yet to be felt. Thirteen years from now, the first of the "baby-boom generation" will reach what is now considered to be retirement age. By the year 2030, the entire "baby-boom" cohort will have passed what is now considered to be the traditional age of retirement (AARP, 1996).

In light of these demographic shifts, academicians have gradually been developing curriculum designed to prepare individuals to respond to the aging of the American population. In 1957, only 57 institutions offered courses in gerontology (Donohue, 1960). By the late 1980s, however, the number of U.S. institutions offering courses in gerontology had grown to approximately 1,155 (Peterson, Douglass, Connelly, & Bergestone, 1987). Today, it is estimated that more than 1,600 institutions offer courses in gerontology (Peterson, Wendt, & Douglass, 1994).

While the increase in the number of gerontology programs in American colleges and universities is to be expected based on the demographic shifts in the population, an enduring question that accompanies the growth centers around the effectiveness of the ever-expanding gerontology curriculum. Thus, the primary purpose of this study is to assess the instructional effectiveness of a gerontology course using Palmore's Facts on Aging Quiz I (FAQ I) and Facts on Aging Quiz II (FAQ II). Specifically, the impact of a one-semester course in gerontology on student's knowledge of the aging process and their biases toward the elderly will be examined.

Previous Uses of FAQ I and FAQ II

Since their initial appearance in the empirical literature (Palmore, 1977; 1981), FAQ I and FAQ II have been widely used. The reasons for the popularity of the quizzes are numerous. The quizzes are short (25 true or false items in each quiz), designed to cover the basic physical, mental, and social facts about aging, have been empirically documented, and have been tested for validity and reliability (Duerson, Thomas, Chang, and Stevens, 1992; Palmore, 1977; 1980). In addition, the results of the quizzes can be used in a variety of ways including stimulating group discussion, identifying misconceptions about aging, indirectly measuring bias toward the aged, and evaluating the effectiveness of training in gerontology (Palmore, 1981).

The results of several studies using the quizzes have been reported with samples including social workers (Barresi & Brubaker, 1979), retirees (Miller & Acuff, 1982), adolescents (Doka, 1985-86), and medical students (Duerson et al., 1992). In addition, numerous samples of undergraduate students have been studied (Courtenay & Weidemann, 1985; Luszcz, 1982; Miller & Dodder, 1980; Palmore, 1977; 1981). As a general rule, individuals with training in gerontology have scored higher on the quizzes (Palmore, 1980). Citing several studies that employed a pre-test, post-test format, Palmore (1980) concluded that individuals who received training in gerontology consistently scored higher on the post-test then they did on the pre-test.

While both quizzes have remained virtually the same since their first appearance in the empirical literature, various scholars have attempted to build upon and improve FAQ I and FAQ II. For instance, hypothesizing that FAQ I was characterized by serious theoretical problems due to vague terminology, Miller and Dodder (1980) developed a revised version of the instrument. …

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