UNDERGRADUATE INSTRUCTION

 This section of the report describes several features of undergraduate instruction over the last three semesters. To provide a slightly longer historical perspective, we also include information from the spring semesters of 1998, 2000, and 2001.[1]  We first describe changes over time in number of sections and section size, and how this varies by campus.  We place these recent changes in the context of a shift in instructional strategy. Next we examine the mix of criminal justice course levels and instructors and how those have changed. We then examine very high and very low grades to see if their have been shifts in grade inflation and/or failing students over time. We also examine what specific factors contribute to a higher proportion of "A" range grades. 

Instructional Strategy

      Starting in Fall of 2002,  we have attempted to move toward a broader range of class sizes. Our goal has been to match class size appropriately with the course content and level of expectations. In short, we have tried to move to somewhat larger classes at the introductory level, so we can offer smaller courses for upper level undergraduate courses. Such an arrangement would  permit undergraduates to interact more extensively with faculty in upper-level  classes, and to work on more complex projects.  Of course, this requires capable, energetic instructors willing to teach somewhat larger, lower-level undergraduate classes, and, for those same classes: appropriate resources in terms of teaching assistantship support, and classrooms with appropriate technologies for displaying class materials. We have worked hard to coordinate with college personnel, individual faculty members, and instructional support offices to bring about this shift.

   As we move toward this model we should see an overall decrease in the number of sections offered, and a reduced reliance on part-time instruction through adjuncts. 

Sections Offered by Semester, and By Campus

   The figure immediately below shows the N of sections by semester for the last three semesters, and for three earlier spring semesters. It shows a steadily increasing total number of section up through Spring 2003 semester, and then a slight reduction for the Fall 2003 semester. 


 

    The chart below shows the number of sections offered by campus. The decrease from Spring 2003 to Fall 2003 took place on the main campus. Across semesters, the number of sections offered at the Ambler Campus remained steady at about eight to ten over the entire period examined. Similarly for Center City campus, where on average we offered about four courses per semester over the last few semesters.

    Variations in class size by semester and campus are shown below. The anticipated increase in class size appears on the main campus for the Fall 2003 semester; the median class size on main campus increased from 45 the previous semester to 49. Over the last three semesters shown, median class size for Center City courses has remained steady at about 30, and median class size at Ambler has fluctuated between about 25 and 35.

 

Full Time Instruction by Campus by Semester  

    Moving to fewer sections on main campus should mean less reliance on adjunct faculty. Although we work hard to identify capable adjuncts, because adjuncts usually work full time jobs away from campus, they are harder for students to find  outside of class. Our historical "goal" has been to keep full-time instruction above 60% and hopefully closer to 70% of sections. We count as "full time" instructors Presidential and Special Appointment faculty, Dean's Appointments, and full-time administrators teaching one course apiece for us.

   Over the semesters shown, the proportion of full time faculty used across all campuses has ranged from about 53% in Spring 2002 to about 76% in Spring 2001; over the semesters shown the average has been 65% of sections taught by full time instructors.

   The figure below shows the proportion of sections taught by full time faculty, by semester, by campus. It  shows we have been recently able to increase somewhat our full time faculty presence in classes on main campus. The Fall 2003 portion of Main campus courses taught by full time faculty was close to 80%, and was higher than in the previous two semesters shown.

   Ambler criminal justice courses sometimes only have a small portion of full time instructors. Although we do have two full time administrators at Ambler who also teach, and although we try to assign at least one full time faculty member to Ambler as well, full timers showed up in only about one class in five on this campus during the Spring 02 and 03 semesters.

 

Instructional Mix

   The University classifies undergraduate courses into three different levels: Introductory, numbered below 100; 100 level or intermediate, numbered 100 to 199; and upper level, numbered 200 to 399. Typically, first year students and sophomores take the lower level courses, and juniors and seniors take the upper level courses. It is important to have a broad mix of courses available to accommodate students at different phases of their undergraduate careers.

    Instructional mix intersects with class size issues. Introductory and 100 level courses, offered largely in lecture format, can be quite large. By contrast, upper level courses should be smaller to allow more advanced students to demonstrate a wider set of skills in the classroom and in their assignments.

   The figure below shows the mix of course levels, represented as the percent of sections, across semesters. Introductory level courses, comprised largely of our introductory offering, have remained at about 15 to 20 percent of our offerings over the last few semesters. 100 level courses represented about 15% of our offerings up until the last semester, when they increased to over 20%. The last semester also saw a decrease, down to around 13%, in the proportion of upper level courses offered.  This recent drop in the proportion of upper level courses may be a byproduct of our effort to move to larger class sizes on main campus, and bears watching.

 

Grade Distributions

    As we have shown in the section on our majors, it appears that undergraduate criminal justice majors at Temple are "getting better" as reflected in their higher GPAs. Therefore we might expect to see some increase in the portion of students in classes getting grades in the A range.  But grade inflation is an ever-present concern in undergraduate education, and we would not expect these increases to be remarkably dramatic.

    Similarly there is concern at the "other end" of the grade distribution; what fraction of students are getting grades that cause problems for their graduation prospects?

    Treating each section as a section, regardless of its size, we looked at the proportion of registered students getting grades in the A range (A or A-), by semester. We also examined the portion of students getting "problem" grades: Ds or Fs or withdrawal with a failing grade.

    The figure below shows that the proportion of grades in the A range has varied between about 27% and 36% in the semesters examined, and was somewhat higher in the last two semesters examined, jumping up to 36% and 33%.  Whether this is due to easier instructors, or the changing mix of courses, or harder working students, is hard to say.

    To more closely consider this issue, we tried to isolate the separate impacts of instructor and semester on the proportion. Using Weighted Least Squares (WLS) regression, so that larger courses counted more, we used the following predictors:

semester sequence
a dummy variable for a Dean's Appointment instructor
a dummy variable for an adjunct instructor
a dummy variable for a full time administrator-instructor[3]

    Results showed the following:

    The figure also shows that the portion of problem grades has been declining somewhat over the semesters examined. For the last two semesters examined it was about 5%.

 

--------------

[1] This year's annual report on undergraduate sections does not correspond perfectly to the reports from the last two years. It was discovered that the file of sections used for the previous two reports was missing data from Ambler, and had some other problems. Those deficiencies have been addressed. Where the numbers in this section disagree with those from previous years, the reader is encouraged to view the current profile as the accurate one. As in previous years' reports, we exclude both independent studies, and the field and class portion of the criminal justice practicum. Although the class portion of the criminal justice practicum represents regularly scheduled instruction, multiple sections are listed for that class, and that class is an internship, and not a a regular class.

[2] The other introductory level course offered is a "Discovery" course (004).

[3] The weight variable used was the square root of the class size (n of students registered)