Active Learning in Biology Courses

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In a recent Circles session on Lake Nona, I had an interesting conversation with Dr. Andrew Piercy (Professor of Biology). He was sharing information about a article he had read on the use of active learning in science classrooms. He was kind enough to share the article with Circles (Thanks Andrew). Click here for more information about the article.  Click here if you are already logged in and authenticated to Valencia’s Library.  Made me wonder if we are going deep enough with our faculty development. I wonder if other studies replicate this possible superficial effect of pedagogical shift?

Active Learning Not Associated with Student Learning in a Random Sample of College Biology Courses
T. M. Andrews,*‡ M. J. Leonard,† C. A. Colgrove,† and S. T. Kalinowski*
Daniel J. Klionsky, Monitoring Editor

Previous research has suggested that adding active learning to traditional college science lectures substantially improves student learning. However, this research predominantly studied courses taught by science education researchers, who are likely to have exceptional teaching expertise. The present study investigated introductory biology courses randomly selected from a list of prominent colleges and universities to include instructors representing a broader population. We examined the relationship between active learning and student learning in the subject area of natural selection. We found no association between student learning gains and the use of active-learning instruction. Although active learning has the potential to substantially improve student learning, this research suggests that active learning, as used by typical college biology instructors, is not associated with greater learning gains. We contend that most instructors lack the rich and nuanced understanding of teaching and learning that science education researchers have developed. Therefore, active learning as designed and implemented by typical college biology instructors may superficially resemble active learning used by education researchers, but lacks the constructivist elements necessary for improving learning.

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