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The Effects of Grade Inflation on Student Learning Outcomes

Description

Grade inflation in modern universities across the United States has been documented since the 1960's and shows no signs of disappearing soon. Responses to this trend have ranged from mild worry to excessive panic. However, is the concern justified? How

Grade inflation in modern universities across the United States has been documented since the 1960's and shows no signs of disappearing soon. Responses to this trend have ranged from mild worry to excessive panic. However, is the concern justified? How significant are the effects, if any, of grade inflation on students? Specifically, does grade inflation on the aggregate level have any effect on how much an individual will learn from their courses? This is precisely the question my project hoped to address. Grade inflation in U.S. colleges has played a central role in student-teacher relationships and the way university classrooms run. Through teacher interviews, student surveys, and a literature review, this paper investigates the nuanced effects grade inflation is having on student motivation and learning. The hypothesis is that the easier it is for a student to obtain their desired grade, the less they will end up engaging in and learning from a given course. Major findings of the literature include: grade inflation has robbed grades of their signaling power, grade inflation has helped create students are too grade-oriented, student evaluations of teaching have prompted higher grades, higher expectations for high grades induce greater study times, and open dialogue can help reverse grade inflation trends. The student surveys and faculty interviews agreed with much of the literature and found that professors believe grade inflation is real but do not believe its effects are significant, students admit to being primarily motivated by grades, and students find grades critically important to their future. The paper concludes that grade inflation is not as detrimental to student outcomes as ardent critics argue and offers practical ways to address it.

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Date Created
2018-05

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Supplementing Traditional Symbolic Logic Instruction with Historical Background and Real-World Applications

Description

A thorough understanding of the key concepts of logic is critical for student success. Logic is often not explicitly taught as its own subject in modern curriculums, which results in misconceptions among students as to what comprises logical reasoning. In

A thorough understanding of the key concepts of logic is critical for student success. Logic is often not explicitly taught as its own subject in modern curriculums, which results in misconceptions among students as to what comprises logical reasoning. In addition, current standardized testing schemes often promote teaching styles which emphasize students' abilities to memorize set problem-solving methods over their capacities to reason abstractly and creatively. These phenomena, in tandem with halting progress in United States education compared to other developed nations, suggest that implementing logic courses into public schools and universities can better prepare students for professional careers and beyond. In particular, logic is essential for mathematics students as they transition from calculation-based courses to theoretical, proof-based classes. Many students find this adjustment difficult, and existing university-level courses which emphasize the technical aspects of symbolic logic do not fully bridge the gap between these two different approaches to mathematics. As a step towards resolving this problem, this project proposes a logic course which integrates historical, technical, and interdisciplinary investigations to present logic as a robust and meaningful subject warranting independent study. This course is designed with mathematics students in mind, with particular stresses on different formulations of deductively valid proof schemes. Additionally, this class can either be taught before existing logic classes in an effort to gradually expose students to logic over an extended period of time, or it can replace current logic courses as a more holistic introduction to the subject. The first section of the course investigates historical developments in studies of argumentation and logic throughout different civilizations; specifically, the works of ancient China, ancient India, ancient Greece, medieval Europe, and modernity are investigated. Along the way, several important themes are highlighted within appropriate historical contexts; these are often presented in an ad hoc way in courses emphasizing technical features of symbolic logic. After the motivations for modern symbolic logic are established, the key technical features of symbolic logic are presented, including: logical connectives, truth tables, logical equivalence, derivations, predicates, and quantifiers. Potential obstacles in students' understandings of these ideas are anticipated, and resolution methods are proposed. Finally, examples of how ideas of symbolic logic are manifested in many modern disciplines are presented. In particular, key concepts in game theory, computer science, biology, grammar, and mathematics are reformulated in the context of symbolic logic. By combining the three perspectives of historical context, technical aspects, and practical applications of symbolic logic, this course will ideally make logic a more meaningful and accessible subject for students.

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2018-05

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Exploring Computational Thinking in 9-12 Education: Developing a Computer Science Curriculum for Bioscience High School

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Bioscience High School, a small magnet high school located in Downtown Phoenix and a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) focused school, has been pushing to establish a computer science curriculum for all of their students from freshman to senior

Bioscience High School, a small magnet high school located in Downtown Phoenix and a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) focused school, has been pushing to establish a computer science curriculum for all of their students from freshman to senior year. The school's Mision (Mission and Vision) is to: "..provide a rigorous, collaborative, and relevant academic program emphasizing an innovative, problem-based curriculum that develops literacy in the sciences, mathematics, and the arts, thus cultivating critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers, and compassionate citizens, who are able to thrive in our increasingly complex and technological communities." Computational thinking is an important part in developing a future problem solver Bioscience High School is looking to produce. Bioscience High School is unique in the fact that every student has a computer available for him or her to use. Therefore, it makes complete sense for the school to add computer science to their curriculum because one of the school's goals is to be able to utilize their resources to their full potential. However, the school's attempt at computer science integration falls short due to the lack of expertise amongst the math and science teachers. The lack of training and support has postponed the development of the program and they are desperately in need of someone with expertise in the field to help reboot the program. As a result, I've decided to create a course that is focused on teaching students the concepts of computational thinking and its application through Scratch and Arduino programming.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2016-05

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The Mathematical Successes and Failures of Students in an Introductory Physics Course

Description

A working knowledge of mathematics is a vital requirement for introductory university physics courses. However, there is mounting evidence which shows that many incoming introductory physics students do not have the necessary mathematical ability to succeed in physics. The investigation

A working knowledge of mathematics is a vital requirement for introductory university physics courses. However, there is mounting evidence which shows that many incoming introductory physics students do not have the necessary mathematical ability to succeed in physics. The investigation reported in this thesis used preinstruction diagnostics and interviews to examine this problem in depth. It was found that in some cases, over 75% of students could not solve the most basic mathematics problems. We asked questions involving right triangles, vector addition, vector direction, systems of equations, and arithmetic, to give a few examples. The correct response rates were typically between 25% and 75%, which is worrying, because these problems are far simpler than the typical problem encountered in an introductory quantitative physics course. This thesis uncovered a few common problem solving strategies that were not particularly effective. When solving trigonometry problems, 13% of students wrote down the mnemonic "SOH CAH TOA," but a chi-squared test revealed that this was not a statistically significant factor in getting the correct answer, and was actually detrimental in certain situations. Also, about 50% of students used a tip-to-tail method to add vectors. But there is evidence to suggest that this method is not as effective as using components. There are also a number of problem solving strategies that successful students use to solve mathematics problems. Using the components of a vector increases student success when adding vectors and examining their direction. Preliminary evidence also suggests that repetitive trigonometry practice may be the best way to improve student performance on trigonometry problems. In addition, teaching students to use a wide variety of algebraic techniques like the distributive property may help them from getting stuck when working through problems. Finally, evidence suggests that checking work could eliminate up to a third of student errors.

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Created

Date Created
2016-12

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Investnet: Investing Education Made Easy

Description

Millennial involvement levels in the stock market are startlingly low. But what has caused this disconnect between America's younger generation and the financial sector? Stress from past financial crises, distrust of Wall Street, corporate greed, or a dislike of capitalism

Millennial involvement levels in the stock market are startlingly low. But what has caused this disconnect between America's younger generation and the financial sector? Stress from past financial crises, distrust of Wall Street, corporate greed, or a dislike of capitalism could surely all be viable culprits. Through our mutual experiences and research, however, we have found that most millennials aren't cynical anarchists avoiding the stock market in an attempt to fight against the system. Rather, they are individuals who have the desire to learn about investing but are clueless as to where/how to start. We both began investing in the stock market early in our college careers by opening online brokerage accounts and developing investment portfolios based on knowledge we learned within our Finance degrees and through independent research. Word of our involvement in the stock market began to spread in our social circles and people would consistently approach either of us and ask a variety of questions regarding investing. Questions such as: Can you sit down and help me open up an account and pick some stocks? What type of things do you invest in? How do I get started? How much money have you made? (always a favorite). Pre-med students, engineers, business, science, and technology majors alike all showed interest in the stock market. The more and more we talked to people, the more we realized that the problem was not a lack of desire or a lack of intellect. The problem was a lack of logically presented information, and barriers to entry that were far too high. We want to fix that. Investnet will be an online educational platform that will teach anyone the basics of investing, in plain, easy to understand terms. Whether the individual has absolutely zero knowledge of finances, or has some familiarity with investing, Investnet will provide them with the knowledge and confidence necessary to start investing in the stock market (or choose not to, but at least they'll know how).

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2016-05

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The Signaling Effect of College Quality to Employers

Description

Upon hiring a new college graduate, employers are left with limited information about the true productivity of the individual, mainly based on the information provided via resume and other related documents. Based on the information, which may include (and is

Upon hiring a new college graduate, employers are left with limited information about the true productivity of the individual, mainly based on the information provided via resume and other related documents. Based on the information, which may include (and is not limited to) education years, grade point average(s), the institution one attended, majors, etc., employers attempt to differentiate between the candidates. Existing employer learning literature, such as Altonji and Pierret (2001) and Peter Arcidiacono, Patrick Bayer, and Aurel Hizmo (2010), have found that employers statistically discriminate upon hiring and estimate wages based on expected productivity conditional to observable characteristics--specifically education. As one's work experience accumulates, the wages are adjusted to the newly learned characteristics correlated with productivity. Thus, college graduates are more appealing as job candidates than high school graduates, with little learning done with experience in the labor market as employers have a more accurate depiction on productivity with more education years. With rising demands for high-skilled labor, there is a growing interest on what employers learn about from the name of the college listed on one's resume, as varying ability students sort into varying quality colleges. I include a one-dimensional index of college quality, as similarly constructed by Eleanor Dillon and Jeffrey Smith (2015), to measure the effects of attending a highly-selective institution in predicting individual ability. This paper provides additional support for the employer learning model on college graduates, with an emphasis on the direct role that college quality has at the start of one's career. Although college quality appears to be influential in providing employers additional information on one's productivity, unlike education, the weight placed on it by employers does not change with experience in the labor market. I further investigate within the college market and provide possible explanations behind learning on the basis of college quality, including: the possibility of information explained by quality unrelated to one's ability and the effects of attending a highly selective college.

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Date Created
2016-05

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Ways of Thinking for Developing an Understanding of Covariational Reasoning in Undergraduate Calculus Students

Description

Previous research discusses students' difficulties in grasping an operational understanding of covariational reasoning. In this study, I interviewed four undergraduate students in calculus and pre-calculus classes to determine their ways of thinking when working on an animated covariation problem. With

Previous research discusses students' difficulties in grasping an operational understanding of covariational reasoning. In this study, I interviewed four undergraduate students in calculus and pre-calculus classes to determine their ways of thinking when working on an animated covariation problem. With previous studies in mind and with the use of technology, I devised an interview method, which I structured using multiple phases of pre-planned support. With these interviews, I gathered information about two main aspects about students' thinking: how students think when attempting to reason covariationally and which of the identified ways of thinking are most propitious for the development of an understanding of covariational reasoning. I will discuss how, based on interview data, one of the five identified ways of thinking about covariational reasoning is highly propitious, while the other four are somewhat less propitious.

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2014-05

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District Wealth and Arizona School Voucher Program Participation

Description

This study estimates the effect of district wealth on Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account program participation using data from the Arizona Department of Education. We find that students from poor districts are not more likely to participate as school performance

This study estimates the effect of district wealth on Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account program participation using data from the Arizona Department of Education. We find that students from poor districts are not more likely to participate as school performance decreases.Conversely, those from wealthy districts do increase participation as school performance decreases. We briefly try to explain the observed heterogeneity through survey results and commenting on the program design.

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Date Created
2021-05

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Teaching Environmental History: Interdisciplinary and Hands-On Learning in an Online Environment

Description

As we count down the years remaining before a global climate catastrophe, ever increases the importance of teaching environmental history and fostering environmental stewardship from a young age. In the age of globalization, nothing exists in a vacuum, yet our

As we count down the years remaining before a global climate catastrophe, ever increases the importance of teaching environmental history and fostering environmental stewardship from a young age. In the age of globalization, nothing exists in a vacuum, yet our traditional education system often fails to reflect the abundant connections between content areas that are prevalent outside of schools. In fact, many of the flaws of the field of education have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a forced transition to online schooling, with many educators reverting to outdated practices in a desperate attempt to get students through the year. The aim of this project was to design a unit curriculum with these issues in mind. This month-long environmental history unit engages students through the use of hands-on activities and promotes interdisciplinary connections. The unit can be taught in a physical, online, or hybrid American history class, and will hopefully inspire and motivate students to become environmental stewards as they look toward their futures on this planet.

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Date Created
2021-05

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A digital approach to closing equity gaps in Arizona schools

Description

Schools across the United States have been subject to a rise in violent incidents since 2013. Reading about school shootings, racist acts, and violent demonstrations in schools has unfortunately become commonplace, which is contributing to inequitable outcomes for some student

Schools across the United States have been subject to a rise in violent incidents since 2013. Reading about school shootings, racist acts, and violent demonstrations in schools has unfortunately become commonplace, which is contributing to inequitable outcomes for some student populations. These equity gaps have triggered demands for more equitable solutions in schools, a responsibility that falls on the shoulders of stakeholders like school governing boards, principals, and parents.

Chandler Unified School District (CUSD), a large school system in Arizona that serves 45,000 students from preschool through high school, has been unable to escape similar structural and frictional inequities within its schools. One instance of a racially charged student performance at Santan Middle School motivated CUSD to take a more immediate look at equity in the district. It is during this response that our team of New Venture Group consultants engaged with Matt Strom, Assistant Superintendent of CUSD, in analyzing the important question of “how CUSD can take steps towards closing equity gaps within the district?”

CUSD defines an equity gap as any difference in student opportunity, achievement, discipline, attendance, etc. contributable to a student’s ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic status. Currently, certain student populations in CUSD perform vastly different academically and receive different opportunities within schools, but as was our problem statement, CUSD is aiming to reduce (and eventually close) these gaps.

Our team approached this problem in three phases: (1) diagnosis, (2) solution creation, and (3) prevention. In phase one, we created a dashboard to help principals easily and visually identify gaps by toggling parameters on the dashboard. Phase two focused on the generation of recommendations for closing gaps. To achieve this goal, a knowledge of successful gap-closing strategies will be paired with the dashboard. In our final phase, the team of consultants created a principal scorecard to ensure equity remains a priority for principals.

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Agent

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Date Created
2019-12