Senior High School Students’ Readiness to Learn College Chemistry

The research team discussed the results of the Rasch modelling of the readiness test in chemistry.
From the right: Dr. Dennis Danipog (Project team leader), Dr. Nona Marlene Ferido,
Prof. Rachel Patricia Ramirez, and Mr. Joel Ballesteros.

The High School Chemistry (HSC) Group of UP NISMED successfully completed the implementation of a research project titled Assessing Senior High School Students’ Readiness to Learn College Chemistry on June 2019. This one-year research project was funded by the UP Diliman Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Development (OVCRD) through its Outright Research Grant Scheme. 

The research was conducted in response to the implementation of the senior high school (SHS) program across the country. In school year 2016-2017, the Department of Education started to implement the SHS program for Grade 11. The readiness of the SHS students for tertiary education, particularly those who chose to be in the Academic Track is not yet known. With this, there is a need to assess SHS students’ knowledge and skills necessary for tertiary education. It is with this reason why this research was conceptualized and implemented by the HSC group. The primary objective of this research was to determine the readiness of SHS students under the Academic Track Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) strand to engage with concepts and skills taught in the general chemistry course in college. Specifically, it assessed Grade 11 students’ knowledge and skills on prerequisites, precursors, and selected chemistry concepts needed to engage with general college chemistry courses. 

In this research, an exemplar 60-item readiness test in chemistry was developed by the researchers to determine whether the entry conceptual knowledge and skills of Grade 11 STEM students are sufficient to engage in general college chemistry curriculum and to assess their knowledge of prerequisite concepts on essential and selected topics in chemistry. This psychometrically sound test was developed using the principles of Rasch one parameter simple logistic model. The items in the test were found to fit the model, showing that they measure the same construct and that the spread of the items was appropriate for the sample students. The readiness test in chemistry was administered to 458 Grade 11 STEM students in seven public secondary schools in Quezon City and Marikina City and in the UP Integrated School. The test data collected were analysed using the Rasch modelling via ConQuest generalized item response modeling software and student ability estimates were produced. 

Based on the results of the Rasch analysis of the readiness test data, a learning progression in chemistry was developed. Based on this progression, the percentage of students who are ready or not ready to learn general chemistry in college was determined. In the development of learning progression, the 60-item readiness test conceptually and empirically separates into four levels (A through D) based on the results of the Rasch analysis. Each level contains descriptions of the concepts and skills in chemistry. The order of level descriptions is from easiest (Level A) to most difficult (Level D). The students assigned to each level via the analysis were considered “ready to learn” the concepts and skills associated with that level. Only 12% of sample students were ready to learn the conceptual knowledge and skills required by the general chemistry curriculum in college, which is described at level D. This indicates that a large number of SHS students involved in this study (88%) is struggling with the necessary concepts and skills in learning general college chemistry. With this, the researchers of this project argued that most SHS STEM students have no sufficient prior knowledge and skills for studying general college chemistry. To address this alarming result, the HSC group already planned to develop a college readiness instructional material in chemistry for SHS students to help them become ready for learning general chemistry course in college.

Dr. Dennis Danipog led the implementation of this research project in collaboration with Dr Nona Marlene Ferido (retired NISMED staff), Prof. Rachel Patricia Ramirez (UPIS faculty), and Mr. Joel Ballesteros (former NISMED staff).