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Questing for Relevance: Exploring Student Outcomes from Creative Assessment "Quests" in a General Education Biology Course

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Talk 7, Session 3: Inquiry-Based Teaching and Learning in STEM

Questing for Relevance: Exploring Student Outcomes from Creative Assessment "Quests" in a General Education Biology Course

"Creativity, critical thinking, questioning, problem solving, and collaboration skills are critical 21st century skills. Contrary to these goals, students often perceive STEM as boring, lacking relevance, and full of memorizing facts. Students in turn leave STEM degrees or never select them to begin with. It is on these premises that we assert that assessments in STEM need to reflect real-world tasks and engage students’ interests and skills. In this study, we used a mixed methods approach to explore participant outcomes after they completed creative assignments in a general biology course in Spring and Fall2021. In this course, student choose to do three assignment “quests” from a list of over 20 options. The pedagogical goal of the quests was to use science in everyday life, explore and find value in nature, and/or share science with others. The quests differ from traditional assignments, as the product was often something other than a paper, poster, or presentation and because students were encouraged to use creativity and personal talents in their work. Another key aspect of the quests was that we used gamification principles to encourage students. Students could theme assignments to earn "skill trees," or do them in special ways to earn "badges." For example, students were encouraged to do the projects with friends and family or create the project in English and another language. Example student products included poetry, songs, museum tours on Animal Crossing, a movie with a time traveling dog, and fossil layer cakes. We did a mixed method analysis of project reflections (N=924) and interviews (n=11) to uncover how and in what ways the quests elicited participant creativity and general emotions. Our talk will discuss results from this research and implications for how others can use creative and quest-style assignments in their own teaching."

Emily Walter, Associate Professor, CSU Fresno

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