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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Students learn better in informal environment

"A Baylor sociologist who reshaped “test day” in his class — transforming it with balloons, streamers, treats and music — found that students in “learning celebrations” scored higher than students who took standard-style exams in previous semesters." reports Baylor University.

Photo: Baylor University.

“Assessment is too important for students to dread,” said Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, in the article “Reframing Test Day,” published in Teaching/Learning Matters. “My goal is to create an ambience for assessment that enhances learning and joy.”

Students are initially skeptical, he said, and “often slip into the familiar language of quizzes and tests.” But “members of our teaching team, myself and two graduate teaching assistants gently remind them that no such activities occur in our course.”

The celebrations are used in Dougherty’s “Introduction to Sociology” class, which usually has more than 200 students.

With Learning Celebrations, Dougherty noted that the mean percentage on exams in three previous semesters, with standard tests, was 84.65; the mean percentage on three semesters of the celebrations was 86.48.

Students consistently did better on Learning Celebrations, with statistically significant differences, Dougherty said.

More than balloons and music, “the content of Learning Celebrations is amusing,” he said...

Photo: Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D.
*Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D., is an award-winning teacher and active researcher. His research explores religious affiliation, religious participation, racial diversity in congregations, congregational growth and decline, and religion’s impact on community involvement, politics and work. His published research appears in leading academic journals and has been featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education, CNN, National Public Radio and USA TODAY.  

Additional resources 
Kevin Dougherty, Ph.D. Reframing Test Day. Teaching/Learning Matters, June 2015

Source: Baylor University