Abell Foundation Report Highlights UMBC Course Redesign Success

The Abell Foundation’s January report highlights the success of course redesigns at UMBC in introductory chemistry and psychology classes.

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry redesigned CHEM 101 in the fall of 2005, and later did the same thing with CHEM 102, adding two-hour “discovery learning” sessions to help students engage with the material. Chair Bill LaCourse points to a key statistic highlighting the success of this approach—pass rates have risen from about 70 percent to almost 85 percent, even as the department raised the cut-offs to earn an A, B or a C.

The Department of Psychology took a similar approach when it redesigned PSYC 100, adding small-group sessions for students to discuss and engage with the subject. The effort, led by Eileen O’Brien, a lecturer in psychology, has resulted in higher pass rates and increased student satisfaction.

The article in the Abell Report, “How Course Redesign at the University of Maryland is Improving Learning, Lowering Costs, and Increasing Graduation Rates,” examines these successes and those at other Maryland institutions.

“One big reason that course redesign works is because the learning strategy aligns with the culture of the current generation of students,” Chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan of the University System of Maryland is quoted as saying. “The course-redesign strategy makes them active participants in the learning process.”

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