An exploration of the perceptions, developmental reasoning levels, differences in learning processes, and academic achievement levels of students in introductory college microbiology

Barbara Ann Matherly Poole

Abstract

This study explored the relationship between the grades students earned in introductory college microbiology and American College Testing scores, sex, race, age, GED or high school diploma, full-time or part-time student status, developmental reasoning levels, memory tactics, and expected achievement. The study also explored student perceptions at the beginning and the end of the microbiology courses for science preparation, expected achievement, relevancy of microbiology, and expectations for the course. Archival records for 121 freshman level and 119 sophomore level microbiology students were accessed to obtain final grades, ACT scores, sex, race, age, GED or high school diploma and full-time or part-time status. The same information was obtained for the 113 freshman level and the 85 sophomore level students who participated in the study. The study groups were given the Group Assessment of Logical Thinking to assess their level of formal reasoning ability, the Inventory of Learning Processes-Revised to assess three memory techniques, an initial perception survey, and an exit perception survey. Academic achievement in microbiology could not be predicted using composites of the predictor variables. There were significant relationships between the GALT scores and the predicted grades with both the freshman and the sophomore final grades. The Self-Efficacy Fact Retention scores and the Literal Memorization scores had significant relationships to the final grades of the freshmen but not the sophomores. There was not a significant relationship between the Deep Semantic scores and the final grades in either group. Students indicated that high school science had given them only a medium to low level of preparation for college microbiology. The sophomores felt that previous college science classes had given them a much better preparation for microbiology than did the freshmen students. Both groups expressed the importance of the laboratory experience to the understanding of science and also the relevancy of microbiology both to their chosen professions and to their own personal lives.