Southeast Missouri State University has received a two million dollar, five-year Title III Strengthening Institutions grant from the U.S. Department of Education to enhance learning experiences in the life sciences through a combination of facilities investments, faculty development and course redesigns.
From October 2009 through September 2014, the College of Science and Mathematics, Department of Biology, Department of Facilities Management, Center for Scholarship on Teaching and Learning, and the Southeast Missouri University Foundation are collaborating, and contracting with external professionals as needed, to carry-out the four interrelated components of Southeast's Title III Project.
- Renovate six out-dated teaching laboratories for the life sciences
- Redesign 14 biology courses being taught in these laboratories
- Develop faculty expertise in Twenty-First Century teaching strategies facilitated by the reconfigured laboratories
- Establish an endowment for future life science laboratory upgrades and maintenance
Project Goals and Outcomes
The Project's first-year focus was on improving two teaching laboratories, curricula and pedagogy for the teaching of anatomy and physiology. Approximately 800 students yearly enroll in Anatomy and Physiology I and II, which are required courses for students pursuing majors in Nursing, Dietetics, Athletic Training, Health Management, Biology Education and pre-professional programs such as Pre-Physical Therapy, Pre-Chiropractic Medicine, Pre-Pharmacy and Pre-Physician Assistant.
One of the project's key student success objectives is to increase the retention rate from Anatomy and Physiology I to A&P II through improved student experiences. A comparison of retention rates between the first cohort to experience project enhancments (2010-2011 Year students) and baseline shows that retention in the anatomy and physiology course series improved 2.9 percentage points from baseline, to a rate of 81.7%, for students affected by project enhancements.
During Project Years 2-3 (October 2010-September 2012), three additional life science teaching laboratories were renovated and five additional courses were redesigned which will affect at least 1,100 undergraduate students who are taught these or other undergraduate biology courses in the newly renovated facilities each year.
Over the five years of the grant, the accumulation of improvements in life science instruction and core offerings is anticipated to improve student success and satisfaction at Southeast, and as well, to increase the number of students majoring in biology or science. A comparison of student outcomes between baseline and the second cohort to be affected by project enhancements (2011-2012 Year students) shows a trend towards improved outcomes:
The institution's first-to-second-year student retention rate increased 4.5 percentage points from baseline to a rate of 73.8%.
Student satisfaction in their "Southeast" experience per mean response scores in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) increased from baseline for two of three selected questions on the opportunities for educational and personal growth through course work. These included the opportunities to:
Analyze the elements of an idea, experience or theory, question 2.b. (i.e. 3.21 > 3.15).
Synthesize and organize ideas, information or experiences into new, more complex interpretations and relationships, question 2.c. (i.e. 3.02 > 2.96).
Think critically and analytically, question 11.e., which decreased slightly from baseline (i.e. 3.25 < 3.27).
- The ratio of undergraduate students who have a major in biology increased 1.83 percentage points from baseline to a rate of 5.95%.