Faculty/Students Win APSA Best Conference Paper Award

Posted On July 3, 2021
Categories Awards, News Tags ,

Christopher L. Brown, Jeannie Grussendorf, Michael Shea, and Clark DeMas won the Political Science Education Section’s Best APSA Conference Paper Award for 2020 for their paper “Changing the Paradigm? Creating an Adaptive Course to Improve Student Engagement and Outcomes in Introductory Political Science Classes.”

The study contributes to our understanding of how, and why, Adaptive Learning may become a critical tool in achieving greater equity in educational outcomes. It is based on data collected on more than 5,200 students of “Global Issues” between 2017 and 2019.

Following is the commendation from the awards committee:

We are truly delighted to announce that the winners of the Political Science Education Section’s Best APSA Conference Paper Award for 2020 are Christopher L. Brown, Jeannie Grussendorf, Michael Shea, and Clark DeMas for their paper “Changing the Paradigm? Creating an Adaptive Course to Improve Student Engagement and Outcomes in Introductory Political Science Classes.”

This paper reports on the authors’ development and implementation of adaptive-learning (AL) software in a “Global Issues” course across 51 classes and more than 5,200 students during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years. Using a sophisticated research design, the authors develop a quasi-experiment to assess the impacts of AL on both students’ perceptions of learning and student exam performance. They find that an overwhelming majority of students reported that AL positively “influenced how they will study for future classes” (69%), “helped them learn the material” (78%), and “helped them track their progress” (81%) in the course. Across all sections of the course, the authors found that the performance difference between AL and non-AL classes was statistically significant, with students in face-to-face (vs. online) AL sections most positively impacted.

This study not only makes a significant contribution to a growing body of research on AL, but also provides critical insights into how AL can improve students’ metacognitive skills, motivation to learn, and academic success. Significantly, the study also finds that AL has the potential to lower DFW (“D” letter grade, Failure, and Withdrawal) rates, increase student retention, and improve time-to-degree. As colleges and universities struggle to close achievement gaps among students with highly divergent levels of college preparedness, especially in the wake of pandemic-induced educational disruptions and budget constraints, this study importantly contributes to our understanding of how, and why, AL may become a critical tool in achieving greater equity in educational outcomes.