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Student Expectations From CS and other STEM Course. Assessment of Student Expectations in the Classroom. Presenter: Karl Schmitt – University of Maryland, College Park. Lilly Graduate Fellows:

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student expectations from cs and other stem course

Student Expectations From CS and other STEM Course

Assessment of Student Expectations in the Classroom


Karl Schmitt – University of Maryland, College Park

Lilly Graduate Fellows:

Andrea Andrew, Abdel-Hameed Badawy, Mara Dougherty, Katie Marie Hrapczynski, Elise Larsen, Matthew Walker Miller, Breanne Robertson, Karl Schmitt, Artesha Taylor Sharma

Co-Investigators: Spencer Benson, Sabrina Kramer, Alexis Williams

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How To Vote via Texting


Standard texting rates only (worst case US $0.20)

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Capitalization doesn’t matter, but spaces and spelling do


  • Student expectations for a course?
    • Teaching techniques?
    • Technologies and tools?
    • Different Assessments?
  • Student expectations for instructors?
    • Types of Communication?
motivation ii
Motivation II
  • Do these student expectations match faculty’s impressions?
  • How can we identify similarities and discrepancies?
  • How do we address these?
  • Motivation
  • Related Work
  • Tool Description
  • Survey Results- For CS
  • (Some more general results)
  • Conclusions
  • Q&A
what others say
What Others Say…
  • Sanders, et al.
    • Planning for 4-year curriculum/course of study
    • Did not compare with faculty perceptions of student expectations (gap analysis)
  • Trudeau & Barnes
    • Focused on instructor traits
  • Umbach & Wawrzynski
    • Showed positive correlation with many of the techniques our survey addressed and student engagement
a simple deployable tool
A Simple, Deployable Tool

Tool Requirements:

  • Components of interest
      • Learning activities
      • Learning assessments
      • Technology
      • Instructor communication
  • Broad applicability
  • Appropriate length
  • Sufficiently informative
  • Flexibility
survey summary
Survey Summary
  • Two Primary Questions:
    • Which of these components do you expect to be used in this course?
    • Rank the three most important components for your learning in this course
  • These were asked about over 20 different components
survey summary details
Survey Summary (details)
  • One free response question:
          • What misconceptions do you think faculty have about students?
participation summary
Participation Summary
  • 27 Instructors; 25 courses
  • 816 undergraduate students enrolled in STEM courses
  • Computer Science Breakdown:
    • Total: 57 Students
    • 200-Level : 42
    • 400-Level : 15
think pair share predict results
Think, Pair, Share, Predict - Results
  • Learning Activities
    • Classroom Discussion, Readings, Chalk-/White-Boards, Study Guides, Demonstrations
  • Learning Assessments
    • Exam types, Projects, Papers, Homework, Class Participation
  • Technology
    • PowerPoint, ELMS, e-Texts, Clickers, Social Media
  • Instructor
    • Office Hours, Classroom, Non-Office Hours, Naming, Answering Emails and Phone-calls, Assignment return, Grade posting

Pick the three with the most difference

a deeper look
Computer Science vs. Biology & (Bio-)ChemistryA deeper look:

200- Level Courses

400- Level Courses

Computer Science – 15

Biology – 106

Bio-Chemistry – 69

  • Computer Science – 42
  • Chemistry (2 courses) – 154
  • Biology – 167
open response question
Open Response Question:

What misconceptions do you think faculty have about students?

student opinions of faculty misconceptions
Student Opinions of Faculty Misconceptions
  • What themes do you think were voiced in their responses?
student opinions of faculty misconceptions1
Student Opinions of Faculty Misconceptions
  • We identified the following themes in student responses:
  • Dominate Themes (>100):
      • Student time commitments
      • Student effort, attitude
  • Secondary Themes (~40):
    • Effectiveness of pedagogy
    • Pace and student comprehension
  • Tertiary Themes (<30):
    • Students goals and grades - Teaching tools
    • Prerequisites - Student-instructor communication
    • Major or class specific comments - Other
    • Cheating - No Misconceptions
student opinions of faculty misconceptions2
Student Opinions of Faculty Misconceptions

Student time commitments (130 responses)

“I think professors frequently underestimate the average workload of a full-time student”

“[Some faculty believe] That we are only in THEIR class and don't take any other time-consuming courses or have jobs “

“They forget not all the students are traditional college students some work a lot and have responsibilities beyond school”

student opinions of faculty misconceptions3
Student Opinions of Faculty Misconceptions

Student effort & attitude (145 responses)

“[Faculty believe] That students are lazy and try to take the easy way out whenever possible”

“[Faculty believe] That our grades on exams directly correlate to how we feel about the course material..i.e. a bad exam grade means the student does not care”

“[Faculty believe] That if they don't show up to office hours/review sessions then they do not care about their grades”

“[Faculty believe] That we only want to get a good grade and typically aren't very interested in learning. Or that we should know everything we are told to learn, even when that includes minor details that aren't emphasized in lecture”

student opinions of faculty misconceptions4
Student Opinions of Faculty Misconceptions

Pedagogy (49 responses)

Faculty believe “That students prefer an excessive amount of "easy" questions on exams in comparison to a shorter amount of more difficult questions. “

“When teaching a large class, it is easy to overlook the fact that there are individuals in your class with individual needs. Also, I feel that chemistry professors in particular have trouble explaining concepts to students. They assume that it makes sense to the students because it makes sense to them.”

Faculty believe “That PowerPoints are an effective teaching method. They are good for presentation of material, not retention. A presenter is not synonymous with a teacher.”

student opinions of faculty misconceptions5
Student Opinions of Faculty Misconceptions

Many students touched on several themes:

“[Faculty believe] That we don't want to learn -- if we show up to class, we are there to learn -- it is not hard to "skip" a class. In that vein, if we are in class, please -- do not baby us, do not mock us for asking questions, and do not waste your time or ours going into information that is irrelevant. Good lectures are key to a good class, whether or not the course material is interesting.”

“I think they think that if we are using our lap tops we are on facebook but that is not always true. I also think they think we don't do the reading but in reality many people do, its just that there is so much reading that it might take a few reminders of which reading we are talking about before the faculty should jump to the conclusion that no body did the reading.”

faculty feedback
Faculty Feedback

“I thought this survey was great at getting a cross section of what my students expected from the class. Plus, we are trying some new formats for the course, and we want to see how the student body changes. I was surprised at some the expectations, but the complaint of the majority: this class is too much work is wrong, in my opinion.”

  • Students and instructors do not always agree on expectations in the classroom.
  • Many students feel that instructors adopt a condescending attitude and underestimate their abilities.
  • This tool provides an early opportunity for instructors and students to communicate and to improve learning.
  • Tool Can be found at:
  • Which student expectations do not match your current teaching style?
  • What curriculum changes might you make based on this information?
  • Are there questions specific to your course or to your discipline that you would want to add?
Thank You
  • UMCP Center for Teaching Excellence
    • Spencer Benson, Sabrina Kramer, Alexis Williams
  • Instructors and students who participated in the surveys
  • Faculty who distributed the student survey
additional comparisons
Additional Comparisons:
  • Learning Assessment
    • Exam types, Projects, Papers, Homework, Class Participation
learning assessment by class
Learning Assessment (by Class)

Seniors expect more sophisticated learning assessment components, such as essay-based exams, group projects, and written papers

Spring 2012

additional comparisons1
Additional Comparisons:
  • Technology
    • PowerPoint, ELMS, e-Texts, Clickers, Social Media
technology by class
Technology (by Class)

Students tend not to expect e-textbooks and social media in STEM courses

Fewer freshmen expect PowerPoint compared to other students

Spring 2012