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Ripped from the Headlines: Using Current Events and Deliberative Democracy to Improve Student Performance in and Perceptions of Nonmajors Biology Courses †

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Despite the importance of scientific literacy, many foundational science courses are plagued by low student engagement and performance. In an attempt to improve student outcomes, an introductory biology course for nonscience majors was redesigned to present the course content within the framework of current events and deliberative democratic exercises. During each instructional unit of the redesigned course, students were presented with a highly publicized policy question rooted in biological principles and currently facing lawmakers. Working in diverse groups, students sought out the information that was needed to reach an educated, rationalized decision. This approach models civic engagement and demonstrates the real-life importance of science to nonscience majors. The outcomes from two semesters in which the redesign were taught were compared with sections of the course taught using traditional pedagogies. When compared with other versions of the same course, presenting the course content within a deliberative democratic framework proved to be superior for increasing students’ knowledge gains and improving students’ perceptions of biology and its relevance to their everyday lives. These findings establish deliberative democracy as an effective pedagogical strategy for nonmajors biology.

No MeSH data available.


Effects of course format on students’ perceptions of their understanding of biology-related topics. A) Fold change in students’ self-reporting that they understand the topic well or very well. B) Fold change in students’ self-reported understanding of topics grouped by instructional unit. Each topic’s unit relationship is listed in italics in Appendix 3. All data are presented as a comparison of pooled responses from the end of the course with pooled responses from the beginning of the course. Perceptions were measured in the redesigned course and in a mixed-format version of the course taught by a different professor.
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f5-jmbe-17-380: Effects of course format on students’ perceptions of their understanding of biology-related topics. A) Fold change in students’ self-reporting that they understand the topic well or very well. B) Fold change in students’ self-reported understanding of topics grouped by instructional unit. Each topic’s unit relationship is listed in italics in Appendix 3. All data are presented as a comparison of pooled responses from the end of the course with pooled responses from the beginning of the course. Perceptions were measured in the redesigned course and in a mixed-format version of the course taught by a different professor.

Mentions: More than 80% of students enrolled in each section of the course rated each of the concepts as important at the beginning of the course. Therefore there was little room for change in whether students perceived them as important (Appendix 5). However, few students reported understanding any of the concepts at the beginning of the semester. Students enrolled in both course formats reported significant improvements in self-reported understanding of the concepts at the end of the semester. These improvements were more pronounced in the redesigned course, as illustrated in Figure 5A. The largest gains were seen in genetic testing and genome sequencing, where students enrolled in the redesigned course reported 9.5-fold and 19.8-fold increases in understanding of these concepts, respectively, compared with 2.5-fold and 1.9-fold for the mixed-format course. The non-biology concepts showed minimal gains in understanding, with negligible differences between course formats. When these topics were divided according to instructional unit, the greatest gains in self-reported understanding were seen for the human development and evolution sections of the redesigned course (Fig. 5B), consistent with students’ actual knowledge of topics in these units as measured by performances on semester exams (Fig. 3) and on the general education assessment (Fig. 4B).


Ripped from the Headlines: Using Current Events and Deliberative Democracy to Improve Student Performance in and Perceptions of Nonmajors Biology Courses †
Effects of course format on students’ perceptions of their understanding of biology-related topics. A) Fold change in students’ self-reporting that they understand the topic well or very well. B) Fold change in students’ self-reported understanding of topics grouped by instructional unit. Each topic’s unit relationship is listed in italics in Appendix 3. All data are presented as a comparison of pooled responses from the end of the course with pooled responses from the beginning of the course. Perceptions were measured in the redesigned course and in a mixed-format version of the course taught by a different professor.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5134941&req=5

f5-jmbe-17-380: Effects of course format on students’ perceptions of their understanding of biology-related topics. A) Fold change in students’ self-reporting that they understand the topic well or very well. B) Fold change in students’ self-reported understanding of topics grouped by instructional unit. Each topic’s unit relationship is listed in italics in Appendix 3. All data are presented as a comparison of pooled responses from the end of the course with pooled responses from the beginning of the course. Perceptions were measured in the redesigned course and in a mixed-format version of the course taught by a different professor.
Mentions: More than 80% of students enrolled in each section of the course rated each of the concepts as important at the beginning of the course. Therefore there was little room for change in whether students perceived them as important (Appendix 5). However, few students reported understanding any of the concepts at the beginning of the semester. Students enrolled in both course formats reported significant improvements in self-reported understanding of the concepts at the end of the semester. These improvements were more pronounced in the redesigned course, as illustrated in Figure 5A. The largest gains were seen in genetic testing and genome sequencing, where students enrolled in the redesigned course reported 9.5-fold and 19.8-fold increases in understanding of these concepts, respectively, compared with 2.5-fold and 1.9-fold for the mixed-format course. The non-biology concepts showed minimal gains in understanding, with negligible differences between course formats. When these topics were divided according to instructional unit, the greatest gains in self-reported understanding were seen for the human development and evolution sections of the redesigned course (Fig. 5B), consistent with students’ actual knowledge of topics in these units as measured by performances on semester exams (Fig. 3) and on the general education assessment (Fig. 4B).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Despite the importance of scientific literacy, many foundational science courses are plagued by low student engagement and performance. In an attempt to improve student outcomes, an introductory biology course for nonscience majors was redesigned to present the course content within the framework of current events and deliberative democratic exercises. During each instructional unit of the redesigned course, students were presented with a highly publicized policy question rooted in biological principles and currently facing lawmakers. Working in diverse groups, students sought out the information that was needed to reach an educated, rationalized decision. This approach models civic engagement and demonstrates the real-life importance of science to nonscience majors. The outcomes from two semesters in which the redesign were taught were compared with sections of the course taught using traditional pedagogies. When compared with other versions of the same course, presenting the course content within a deliberative democratic framework proved to be superior for increasing students’ knowledge gains and improving students’ perceptions of biology and its relevance to their everyday lives. These findings establish deliberative democracy as an effective pedagogical strategy for nonmajors biology.

No MeSH data available.