Active Learning in Flipped Life Science Courses Promotes Development of Critical Thinking Skills.
ABSTRACT: Although development of critical thinking skills has emerged as an important issue in undergraduate education, implementation of pedagogies targeting these skills across different science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines has proved challenging. Our goal was to assess the impact of targeted interventions in 1) an introductory cell and molecular biology course, 2) an intermediate-level evolutionary ecology course, and 3) an upper-level biochemistry course. Each instructor used Web-based videos to flip some aspect of the course in order to implement active-learning exercises during class meetings. Activities included process-oriented guided-inquiry learning, model building, case studies, clicker-based think-pair-share strategies, and targeted critical thinking exercises. The proportion of time spent in active-learning activities relative to lecture varied among the courses, with increased active learning in intermediate/upper-level courses. Critical thinking was assessed via a pre/posttest design using the Critical Thinking Assessment Test. Students also assessed their own learning through a self-reported survey. Students in flipped courses exhibited gains in critical thinking, with the largest objective gains in intermediate and upper-level courses. Results from this study suggest that implementing active-learning strategies in the flipped classroom may benefit critical thinking and provide initial evidence suggesting that underrepresented and first-year students may experience a greater benefit.
Project description:In flipped-class pedagogy, students prepare themselves at home before lectures, often by watching short video clips of the course contents. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of flipped classes on motivation and learning strategies in higher education using a controlled, pre- and posttest approach. The same students were followed in a traditional course and in a course in which flipped classes were substituted for part of the traditional lectures. On the basis of the validated Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ), we found that flipped-class pedagogy enhanced the MSLQ components critical thinking, task value, and peer learning. However, the effects of flipped classes were not long-lasting. We therefore propose repeated use of flipped classes in a curriculum to make effects on metacognition and collaborative-learning strategies sustainable.
Project description:Active-learning environments such as those found in a flipped classroom are known to increase student performance, although how these gains are realized over the course of a semester is less well understood. In an upper-level lecture course designed primarily for biochemistry majors, we examine how students attain improved learning outcomes, as measured by exam scores, when the course is converted to a more active flipped format. The context is a physical chemistry course catering to life science majors in which approximately half of the lecture material is placed online and in-class problem-solving activities are increased, while total class time is reduced. We find that exam performance significantly improves by nearly 12% in the flipped-format course, due in part to students interacting with course material in a more timely and accurate manner. We also find that the positive effects of the flipped class are most pronounced for students with lower grade point averages and for female students.
Project description:Many science educators agree that 21st century students need to develop mature scientific thinking skills. Unsurprisingly, students' and experts' perceptions about the nature of scientific knowledge differ. Moreover, students' naïve and entrenched epistemologies can preclude their development toward "thinking like scientists." Novel teaching approaches that guide students toward more mature perceptions may be needed to support their development of scientific thinking skills. To address such issues, physics educators developed the Colorado Learning Attitudes About Science Survey (CLASS), subsequently adapted for chemistry and biology. These surveys are "designed to compare novice and expert perceptions about the content and structure of a specific discipline; the source of knowledge about that discipline, including connection of the discipline to the real world; and problem-solving approaches" (Semsar et al., CBE Life Sci. Educ. 10:268-278; p 269). We used CLASS-Bio to track students' perceptions of science in separate first-year and upper-level CREATE (Consider, Read, Elucidate hypotheses, Analyze and interpret the data, Think of the next Experiment) electives, hypothesizing that perceptions would become significantly more expert-like across a semester. Both first-year and upper-level cohorts made significant expert-like shifts. Students also made significant critical thinking gains in CREATE courses. Our findings of more mature, expert-like perceptions of science post-course contrast with those of previous studies, where students' thinking became significantly less expert-like across a term of introductory instruction and changed little in upper-level biology electives. Augmenting traditional biology curricula with CREATE courses could be an economical way to help undergraduates develop more mature views of science.
Project description:Active teaching techniques that involve critical thinking and analysis lead to better learning and retention, and there is growing need for learner-centered classroom activities in the neurosciences. This article presents a critical thinking activity that offers context and meaning to basic principles of synaptic pharmacology. Students analyze fictional datasets to identify major characteristics of drug tolerance. Students' self-reported perceptions and ungraded quiz scores suggest that this activity was an enjoyable and impactful way to deepen students' understanding and engage them with the course material. This activity was developed for a 300-level psychopharmacology course that included majors from various science departments, but could be used and/or modified for specialized seminars or other undergraduate courses in psychology or biology.
Project description:Learning assistant (LA) programs have been implemented at a range of institutions, usually as part of a comprehensive curricular transformation accompanied by a pedagogical switch to active learning. While this shift in pedagogy has led to increased student learning gains, the positive effect of LAs has not yet been distinguished from that of active learning. To determine the effect that LAs would have beyond a student-centered instructional modality that integrated active learning, we introduced an LA program into a large-enrollment introductory molecular biology course that had already undergone a pedagogical transformation to a highly structured, flipped (HSF) format. We used questions from a concept test (CT) and exams to compare student performance in LA-supported HSF courses with student performance in courses without LAs. Students in the LA-supported course did perform better on exam questions common to both HSF course modalities but not on the CT. In particular, LA-supported students' scores were higher on common exam questions requiring higher-order cognitive skills, which LAs were trained to foster. Additionally, underrepresented minority (URM) students particularly benefited from LA implementation. These findings suggest that LAs may provide additional learning benefits to students beyond the use of active learning, especially for URM students.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Curriculum design and specific topic selection for on-site practical courses in clinical disciplines with limited teaching time is challenging. An electronic learning supported curriculum based on the flipped classroom principle has a high potential to effectively gain knowledge and education along with improving practical experience. Here, we demonstrate the introduction of a flipped classroom curriculum for practical courses in Otorhinolaryngology (ORL) in real world practice to improve the on-site time management and students' experience. METHODS:Educational aims of our practical curriculum were analysed and rearranged into a flipped classroom (FC) framework. Core knowledge was taught preliminary based on a moodle platform in predominantly interactive formats. Two quasi-randomized groups were formed with 212 participants either receiving or not receiving access to the e-learning program to reduce a potential allocation bias to the e-learning group. All students completed a questionnaire with learning related items. Focusing the study on the intervention group, we investigated if students using the flipped classroom more often felt better prepared for the practical course. RESULTS:The online learning platform was highly accepted and frequently used by 66% of participating students in the e-learning group. Students with frequent use of our e-learning platform significantly felt better prepared for the practical course (p =?0.001). The far majority of all students supports the idea of further development of e-learning. More than 70% were generally interested in ORL. Handouts were the overall most important learning resource and more than 50% relied solely on them. CONCLUSIONS:Flipped classroom curricula can save time and help improving the on-site experience in practical courses especially in smaller surgical disciplines. The acceptance of digital learning is high, and most students rely on handouts for learning ORL, emphasizing the need for guidance by the teacher e.g. through electronic learning. Our results underline the high potential of FC to address teaching challenges for smaller medical disciplines with limited teaching time like ORL.
Project description:Primary literature is essential for scientific communication and is commonly utilized in undergraduate biology education. Despite this, there is often little time spent training our students how to critically analyze a paper. To address this, we introduced a primary literature module in multiple upper-division laboratory courses. In this module, instructors conduct classroom discussions that dissect a paper as researchers do. While previous work has identified classroom interventions that improve primary literature comprehension within a single course, our goal was to determine whether including a scientific paper module in our classes could produce long-term benefits. On the basis of performance in an assessment exam, we found that our module resulted in longitudinal gains, including increased comprehension and critical-thinking abilities in subsequent lab courses. These learning gains were specific to courses utilizing our module, as no longitudinal gains were seen in students who had taken other upper-division labs that lacked extensive primary literature discussion. In addition, we assessed whether performance on our assessment correlated with a variety of factors, including grade point average, course performance, research background, and self-reported confidence in understanding of the article. Furthermore, all of the study conclusions are independent of biology disciplines, as we observe similar trends within each course.
Project description:Use of open-ended Problem-Based Learning (PBL) in biology classrooms has been limited by the difficulty in designing problem scenarios such that the content learned in a course can be predicted and controlled, the lack of familiarity of this method of instruction by faculty, and the difficulty in assessment. Here we present the results of a study in which we developed a team-based interdisciplinary course that combined the fields of biology and civil engineering across three years. We used PBL scenarios as the only learning tool, wrote the problem scenarios, and developed the means to assess these courses and the results of that assessment. Our data indicates that PBL changed students' perception of their learning in content knowledge and promoted a change in students' learning styles. Although no statistically significant improvement in problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills was observed, students reported substantial changes in their problem-based learning strategies and critical thinking skills.
Project description:High-structure courses or flipped courses require students to obtain course content before class so that class time can be used for active-learning exercises. While textbooks are used ubiquitously in college biology courses for content dissemination, studies have shown that students frequently do not read their textbooks. To address this issue, we created preclass reading guides that provided students with a way to actively engage with the required reading for each day of class. To determine whether reading guide completion before class is associated with increased performance, we surveyed students about their use of reading guides in two sections of a large-enrollment (400+ students) introductory biology course and used multiple linear regression models to identify significant correlations. The results indicated that greater than 80% of students completed the reading guides before class and that full completion of the reading guides before class was significantly positively correlated with exam performance. Reading guides in most cases were used similarly between different student groups (based on gender, ethnicity, and aptitude). These results suggest that optional preclass reading guides may help students stay on track to acquire course content in introductory biology and thus result in improved exam performance.
Project description:Active-learning strategies are increasingly being integrated into college-level science courses to make material more accessible to all students and to improve learning outcomes. One active-learning pedagogy, case-based learning (CBL), was developed as a way to both enhance engagement in the material and to accommodate diverse learning styles. Yet, adoption of CBL approaches in undergraduate biology courses has been piecemeal, in part because of the perceived investment of time required. Furthermore, few CBL lesson plans have been developed specifically for upper-division laboratory courses. Here, we describe four cases that we developed and implemented for a senior cell and molecular biology laboratory course at San Francisco State University, a minority-serving institution. To evaluate the effectiveness of these modules, we used both written and verbal assessments to gauge learning outcomes and attitudinal responses of students over two semesters. Students responded positively to the new approach and seemed to meet the learning goals for the course. Most said they would take a course using CBL again. These case modules are readily adaptable to a variety of classroom settings.