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The Use of Group Activities in Introductory Biology Supports Learning Gains and Uniquely Benefits High-Achieving Students †

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ABSTRACT

This study describes the implementation and effectiveness of small-group active engagement (GAE) exercises in an introductory biology course (BSCI207) taught in a large auditorium setting. BSCI207 (Principles of Biology III—Organismal Biology) is the third introductory core course for Biological Sciences majors. In fall 2014, the instructors redesigned one section to include GAE activities to supplement lecture content. One section (n = 198) employed three lectures per week. The other section (n = 136) replaced one lecture per week with a GAE class. We explored the benefits and challenges associated with implementing GAE exercises and their relative effectiveness for unique student groups (e.g., minority students, high- and low-grade point average [GPA] students). Our findings show that undergraduates in the GAE class exhibited greater improvement in learning outcomes than undergraduates in the traditional class. Findings also indicate that high-achieving students experienced the greatest benefit from GAE activities. Some at-risk student groups (e.g., two-year transfer students) showed comparably low learning gains in the course, despite the additional support that may have been afforded by active learning. Collectively, these findings provide valuable feedback that may assist other instructors who wish to revise their courses and recommendations for institutions regarding prerequisite coursework approval policies.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

An example for a GAE worksheet to facilitate students’ understanding of secondary growth in trees. The figure that appears in the worksheet is from REECE, JANE B.; URRY, LISA A.; CAIN, MICHAEL L.; WASSERMAN, STEVEN A.; MINORSKY, PETER V.; JACKSON, ROBERT B., CAMPBELL BIOLOGY, 9th, ©2011. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York. Each group received a horizontal slice of wood and an activity sheet with instructions.
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f1-jmbe-17-360: An example for a GAE worksheet to facilitate students’ understanding of secondary growth in trees. The figure that appears in the worksheet is from REECE, JANE B.; URRY, LISA A.; CAIN, MICHAEL L.; WASSERMAN, STEVEN A.; MINORSKY, PETER V.; JACKSON, ROBERT B., CAMPBELL BIOLOGY, 9th, ©2011. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York. Each group received a horizontal slice of wood and an activity sheet with instructions.

Mentions: The GAE activities were focused predominantly on content areas that are likely to be those with the greatest potential to lose students in the lecture format. One of the core skills introduced in BSCI207 is the use of simple mathematical models of biological processes or relationships. For example, instead of presenting lecture slides on fitness effects of gamete size, students in the GAE class worked in groups on an activity in which they used Excel to calculate the fitness effects of gamete size, gamete number, and gamete mobility. Student groups compared their findings with other peer groups in the class. Another GAE session facilitated students’ understanding of secondary growth in trees. Each group received a horizontal slice of wood and an activity sheet with instructions (Fig. 1). The instructors organized lecture topics, GAE class activities, and homework assignments by content area (Appendix 1). Homework assignments consisted mainly of textbook reading and computer-based modules to reinforce required math skills.


The Use of Group Activities in Introductory Biology Supports Learning Gains and Uniquely Benefits High-Achieving Students †
An example for a GAE worksheet to facilitate students’ understanding of secondary growth in trees. The figure that appears in the worksheet is from REECE, JANE B.; URRY, LISA A.; CAIN, MICHAEL L.; WASSERMAN, STEVEN A.; MINORSKY, PETER V.; JACKSON, ROBERT B., CAMPBELL BIOLOGY, 9th, ©2011. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York. Each group received a horizontal slice of wood and an activity sheet with instructions.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5134939&req=5

f1-jmbe-17-360: An example for a GAE worksheet to facilitate students’ understanding of secondary growth in trees. The figure that appears in the worksheet is from REECE, JANE B.; URRY, LISA A.; CAIN, MICHAEL L.; WASSERMAN, STEVEN A.; MINORSKY, PETER V.; JACKSON, ROBERT B., CAMPBELL BIOLOGY, 9th, ©2011. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., New York, New York. Each group received a horizontal slice of wood and an activity sheet with instructions.
Mentions: The GAE activities were focused predominantly on content areas that are likely to be those with the greatest potential to lose students in the lecture format. One of the core skills introduced in BSCI207 is the use of simple mathematical models of biological processes or relationships. For example, instead of presenting lecture slides on fitness effects of gamete size, students in the GAE class worked in groups on an activity in which they used Excel to calculate the fitness effects of gamete size, gamete number, and gamete mobility. Student groups compared their findings with other peer groups in the class. Another GAE session facilitated students’ understanding of secondary growth in trees. Each group received a horizontal slice of wood and an activity sheet with instructions (Fig. 1). The instructors organized lecture topics, GAE class activities, and homework assignments by content area (Appendix 1). Homework assignments consisted mainly of textbook reading and computer-based modules to reinforce required math skills.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

This study describes the implementation and effectiveness of small-group active engagement (GAE) exercises in an introductory biology course (BSCI207) taught in a large auditorium setting. BSCI207 (Principles of Biology III—Organismal Biology) is the third introductory core course for Biological Sciences majors. In fall 2014, the instructors redesigned one section to include GAE activities to supplement lecture content. One section (n = 198) employed three lectures per week. The other section (n = 136) replaced one lecture per week with a GAE class. We explored the benefits and challenges associated with implementing GAE exercises and their relative effectiveness for unique student groups (e.g., minority students, high- and low-grade point average [GPA] students). Our findings show that undergraduates in the GAE class exhibited greater improvement in learning outcomes than undergraduates in the traditional class. Findings also indicate that high-achieving students experienced the greatest benefit from GAE activities. Some at-risk student groups (e.g., two-year transfer students) showed comparably low learning gains in the course, despite the additional support that may have been afforded by active learning. Collectively, these findings provide valuable feedback that may assist other instructors who wish to revise their courses and recommendations for institutions regarding prerequisite coursework approval policies.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus