Pre-class coming attractions: interest and program awareness in the classroom.
Authors:
Nadler, Joel T.
Clark, M.H.
Pub Date:
12/01/2010
Publication:
Name: Journal of Instructional Psychology Publisher: George Uhlig Publisher Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education; Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 George Uhlig Publisher ISSN: 0094-1956
Issue:
Date: Dec, 2010 Source Volume: 37 Source Issue: 4

Accession Number:
249957358
Full Text:
Slides similar to "Coming Attractions" shown in cinemas were displayed prior to classes at a mid-western university over three semesters. More than 140 PowerPoint slides, featuring humor, psychology content, and department/faculty information were presented immediately prior to undergraduate psychology class lectures. The primary goals were to increase interest in the class and knowledge of the department and its faculty. Questionnaires and pre- and posttests were used to assess how the pre-class slides affected students' class enjoyment and departmental and faculty awareness. Students reported that the slides were, in general, a positive addition to the classes. Statistical tests indicated that the slides increased students' familiarity with the psychology faculty, which may help integrate students into the psychology department.

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For new college students, institutional integration often starts in the class room (Booker, 2008). Institutional integration refers to students feeling that they are a part of their university and that they have good relationships with fellow students and faculty (Tinto, 1993). Effective classroom experiences and increased institutional integration are linked to higher attendance, retention, and performance (Borden & Evenbeck, 2007; Pascarella, Seifert, & Whitt, 2008). Classes need to focus on providing excellent student experiences and assist in institutional integration in addition to teaching content material. Students who have integrated into their institutions well tend to have better attendance, persistence and graduation rates (Borden & Evenbeck, 2007; Strage, 1999; Tinto, 2007).

Pascarella and Terenzini (1980) suggested familiarity with faculty resulted in stronger institutional integration. Likewise, incorporating humor into lectures can increase engagement and positive responses from students (Epting, Zinn, Buskist, & Buskist, 2004). Given that increased classroom attendance is related to improved performance and retention (Borden & Evenbeck, 2007; Clump, Bauer, & Whiteleather, 2003; Hudson, 2005; Pascarella, Seifert, & Whitt, 2008), it is important that students are motivated to attend.

In an effort to increase students' engagement, interest, departmental knowledge, and attendance, a series of pre-class slides were shown to multiple classes over three semesters. The intervention was modeled after movie trailers commonly shown prior to feature presentations in movie theaters. The primary goals of the intervention were to: (1) improve overall satisfaction with the course, (2) improve awareness of the psychology department and its faculty, and (3) to indirectly increase attendance. Although initially viewed as a "fun" addition to a class, the pre-class slides also served as a creative medium for informing students about the department and its faculty.

Method

Participants

A total of 153 undergraduate psychology students from a mid-western university participated in four studies of the pre-class slides, see Table 1. The first study used 48 students from a 2007 Fall semester course. The second study used 76 students from two consecutive semesters, Fall 2007 and Spring 2008. The third study used 85 students from two sections of the same course in Spring 2008, in which one class (n = 48) was shown the pre-class slides class and the other was not (n = 37). The fourth study used 20 students from a 2008 Summer semester course.

Materials

The first author constructed a series of 140 PowerPoint pre-class sides that featured information and humor about psychology and the university's psychology department. The pre-class slides were formatted to look like "coming attraction" trailer slides shown prior to featured movies in theaters. Slides covered four broad categories: mini-biographies of faculty, psychology departmental and university information, psychological content information, and psychological humor. Psychological content slides included information about famous psychologists (i.e. Philip Zimbardo and B. F. Skinner) and examples of theoretical models (cognitive perception and statistical correlation). Slides were shown during each 10 minute period prior to the scheduled start of class for the entire semester. Every two weeks a different selection of 20 slides was featured from the total series of 140 slides; in this way students were regularly exposed to novel slides. Slides were presented as a looped automatic PowerPoint show with slides changing every 30 seconds, showing each slide once in the 10 minute period prior to class. Examples of the slides are illustrated in Figure 1 and a slide bank can be found at http://www.psychology. siu.edu/courses/PreClassSlides.ppt.

Three questionnaires were designed to study the effectiveness of the pre-class slides. Questionnaire 1 was designed to measure students' familiarity with the faculty by rating professors' photographs using a three-point scale, ranging from unfamiliar (1) to familiar (3), and by providing the professors' names. Questionnaire 2 had students rate the pre-class slides with respect to their humor, usefulness, and extent to which the slides had influenced attendance. Sixteen statements were rated on a five-point scale, ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5). An example statement was "I found the slides detailing psychology faculty members to be informative." Additionally, students were asked to provide open ended feedback concerning the slides. Questionnaire 3 measured students' knowledge about the psychology department's programs, events, and research opportunities. Seventeen statements about the department were rated on a five-point Likert-type scale, ranging from untrue (1) to true (5). An example item was "The psychology department provides free career counseling to students."

Procedure

The first study used a one-group pretest-posttest design that examined how familiar students were with the psychology department's faculty. Students completed Questionnaire 1 to assess faculty familiarity during the first and last weeks of a semester in which they were shown the pre-class slides. The second study used a one group posttest only design to assess students' perceptions of the pre-class slides. Students completed Questionnaire 2 at the end of a semester after being exposed to the pre-class slides. The third study used a non-equivalent posttest only design to examine students' knowledge about the psychology department's programs and events using Questionnaire 3, administered at the end of the semester. Pre-class slides were shown to one of two class sections. This section was compared to students enrolled in the same course, but attending a different section and were not exposed to the pre-class slides. The fourth study used a one-group pretest-posttest design to assess students' knowledge of the department and familiarity with faculty. Students completed Questionnaires 1 and 3 during the first and last weeks of a semester in which the pre-class slides were shown.

Results

First Study

Prior to the intervention only 9% of the students correctly identified any of the eight pictured undergraduate faculty members by name. This increased to 17% at the posttest. The students' familiarity with instructors also improved substantially from pretest (M = 1.17, SD = .33) to posttest (M = 1.80, SD = .87) as measured on a three-point scale, t (47) = 4.67, p < .001, Cohen's d = .95.

Second Study

Students exposed to the pre-class slides reported that the slides were a positive addition to the class (M= 4.73, SD = 1.15) and increased their knowledge of the history of psychology (M = 4.19, SD = .94), the department (M = 4.27, SD = .79), and the faculty (M = 4.13, SD = .82) when rating agreement on a five-point scale. The pre-class slides were seen as entertaining (M = 4.44, SD = .81), and students agreed that they should be used in other classes (M = 4.13, SD = .82). However, students did not agree that the slides increased the likelihood of their attendance (M = 2.16, SD = 1.25). Although qualitative comments indicated that the slides were seen primarily as entertainment, over 90% of students thought the pre-class slides should be used in other classes. Recommended improvements included adding sound, more variety, and incorporating class specific review slides.

Third Study

The third study indicated that students exposed to the pre-class slides were more familiar with faculty on a three-point scale (M = 1.80, SD = .93) than students who did not view the slides (M = 1.22, SD = .27), t (84) = 4.13 ,p < .001, Cohen's d = .86. Departmental knowledge (measured on a five-point scale) was relatively high when averaged across both classes (M = 4.40, SD = .48), but there was no statistical difference between classes, t(83) = .04,p = .97.

Fourth Study

In the fourth study, there was a significant improvement in familiarity with faculty from pre-test (M = 1.20, SD = .33) to posttest (M= 1.53, SD = .35), t(14) = 6.03 ,p < .001, Cohen's d = 1.92. Students at posttest could only identify 11% of the eight faculty members by name on average, this improved to 24% at the time of the posttest. However, there was not a significant increase in departmental knowledge, t(18) = 1.53, p = .14.

Discussion

All four studies taken together demonstrated positive effects of including pre-class slides as a method of increasing faculty awareness and class enjoyment. Although our evaluation did not permit us to use a randomized experimental design, our use of multiple non-randomized designs strengthens the validity of our results. Likewise, the consistency in our findings further supports the stability of this intervention. Assuming that familiarity with faculty contributes to sense of college community, an intervention that improves familiarity with faculty will likely lead to improved student feelings of institutional integration. Although we did not directly test how faculty recognition influences academic integration, such an assessment would be the next step in establishing this relationship. While there are still potential threats to validity, such as history or maturation, in which the students may be introduced to faculty at events or guest lectures, the consistency in effects across Studies 1,3 and 4 (each conducted in a different semester) suggest that these may not be likely threats. Additionally, Study 4 was conducted during a Summer semester when faculty were not teaching, reducing the likelihood increases in familiarity could be caused by contact with faculty during the semester.

One limitation of this study was that the departmental knowledge questionnaire suffered from ceiling effects. There was little variability between the treatment and comparison groups since all students were familiar with the items. Perhaps a better way to measure the effect of the slides is to include more items that focus on information many students would not know prior to showing the slides. A second limitation is that not all students were exposed to the pre-class slides for the same duration of time. Since the slides were shown for ten minutes prior to course lectures, only those who arrived before class could have seen the slides. While we did not measure class attendance or punctuality, it would be worthwhile to examine what effect the slides might have on these outcomes.

Pre-class slides present an entertaining method to increase interest in the class, provide information, and increase student engagement. Although this medium may not be a useful substitute for existing methods of instruction, we found that students found the slides informative and entertaining. Knowing that the pre-class slides are favorable among students, uses of the pre-class slides could easily be extended to class specific information and review and to facilitate student participation by allowing students to submit their own slides to the presentations. Pre-class slides could also be used to clarify topics taught in courses or increase awareness about campus resources. This mode of presentation may be more accessible to students because the slides are seen as entertaining. Therefore, presenting intimidating subjects, such as statistics and neuropsychology, in a colorful and humorous format may lessen students' resistance to learning.

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References

Booker, K. C. (2008). The role of instructors and peers in establishing classroom community. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 35, 12-16.

Borden, V. M. H., & Evenbeck, S. E. (2007). Changing the minds of new college students. Tertiary Education and Management, 13, 153-167.

Clump, M.A., Bauer, H., & Whiteleather, A. (2003). To attend or not to attend: Is that a good question? Journal of Instructional Psychology, 30,220-224.

Epting, L. K., Zinn, T. E., Buskist, C., & Buskist, W. (2004). Student perspectives on the distinction between ideal and typical teachers. Teaching of Psychology, 31, 181-183.

Hudson, W. E. (2005). Can an early alert excessive absenteeism warning system be effective in retaining freshman students? Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, and Practice, 7, 217-226.

Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (1980). Predicting freshman persistence and voluntary dropout decisions from a theoretical model. Journal of Higher Education, 51, 60-75.

Pascarella, E. T., Seifert, T. A., & Whitt, E. J. (2008). Effective instruction and college student persistence: Some new evidence. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 115, 55-70.

Strage, A. (1999). Social and academic integration and college success: Similarities and differences as a function of ethnicity and family education background. College Student Journal, 33, 198-205.

Tinto, V. (1993) Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press

Tinto, V. (2007). Research and practice of student retention: What next? Journal of College Student Retention, 8, 1-19.

Joel T. Nadler, Department of Psychology, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, IL. M. H. Clark, Department of Educational and Human Sciences, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Joel T. Nadler at jnadler@siue.edu.
Table 1
Study Methodology

Study     Design                       N

Study 1   One group pretest-posttest   48
Study 2   One group postest            76
Study 3   Two group non-equivalent
          posttest                     85
Study 4   One group pretest-postest    20

Study     Questionnaire          Outcomes

Study 1        1          Faculty familiarity
Study 2        2          Student perceptions of slides
Study 3        3          Departmental knowledge
Study 4      1 & 3        Faculty familiarity and
                          departmental knowledge
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