2:30-5:00 p.m., April 19, 2005
Mary Gates Commons
Astronomy and Astronomy-Writing Link Comparisons: Demographic, Academic Experience, and Grades. The goal of the interdisciplinary writing program (IWP) link is to help students learn about writing in a particular discipline: how the disciplinary context and purposes shape writing, what counts as evidence in arguments, what research methodologies are explicated in writings, what is assumed, etc.
A writing link with Astronomy 101 was begun Spring Quarter, 2002. Almost immediately the instructors and TAs involved noticed a secondary effect: as a group, those students enrolled in the IWP link did better overall in the Astronomy 101 course. At that time, the results were based on anecdotal information and an informal survey.We now have data for nearly every quarter since then (8 quarters total, with different professors and TAs teaching the Astronomy 101 course), and the trend has continued. In July, 2004, two of us (Griego and Beyer) investigated the question as to whether or not students in the IWP links with Astronomy 101 differed with respect to demographics, academic experience, and grades from those in the general population of Astronomy 101.
Over the 3 quarters studied, we found that demographic and academic experience variables for IWP link students were essentially identical to lecture group as a whole, except for a marginal superiority in math skills/scores. A t-test analysis on the total sample collapsed across quarters revealed a significant overall difference where Astro-Only student scores were significantly lower than Astro-IWP students scores. We will be extending this 3-quarter study to additional quarters and proposing some possibilities for why students in the IWP link -- whose backgrounds do not significantly differ from the general Astronomy 101 population -- do significantly better in all aspects of the course.