How do undergraduates cope with anxiety resulting from active learning practices in introductory biology?
ABSTRACT: Active learning pedagogies decrease failure rates in undergraduate introductory biology courses, but these practices also cause anxiety for some students. Classroom anxiety can impact student learning and has been associated with decreased student retention in the major, but little is known about how students cope with anxiety caused by active learning practices. In this study, we investigated student coping strategies for various types of active learning (clickers, volunteering to answer a question, cold calling, and group work) that were used in 13 introductory Biology courses at a large public university in 2016-2017. A survey asked students to rate their anxiety regarding the four active learning practices and over half of the students explained the coping strategies they used to manage their active learning anxieties. Coping responses from 880 students were sorted into pre-defined categories of coping strategies: problem solving, information seeking, self-reliance, support seeking, accommodation, helplessness, escape, delegation, and isolation. We found that a different category of coping was dominant for each type of active learning. The dominant coping strategies for anxiety associated with clickers, cold calling, and group work were adaptive coping strategies of information seeking, self-reliance, and support-seeking, respectively. The dominant coping strategy for volunteering to answer a question was escape, which is a maladaptive strategy. This study provides a detailed exploration of student self-reported coping in response to active learning practices and suggests several areas that could be foci for future psychosocial interventions to bolster student regulation of their emotions in response to these new classroom practices.
Project description:Many researchers have called for implementation of active learning practices in undergraduate science classrooms as one method to increase retention and persistence in STEM, yet there has been little research on the potential increases in student anxiety that may accompany these practices. This is of concern because excessive anxiety can decrease student performance. Levels and sources of student anxiety in three introductory biology lecture classes were investigated via an online survey and student interviews. The survey (n = 327) data revealed that 16% of students had moderately high classroom anxiety, which differed among the three classes. All five active learning classroom practices that were investigated caused student anxiety, with students voluntarily answering a question or being called on to answer a question causing higher anxiety than working in groups, completing worksheets, or answering clicker questions. Interviews revealed that student anxiety seemed to align with communication apprehension, social anxiety, and test anxiety. Additionally, students with higher general anxiety were more likely to self-report lower course grade and the intention to leave the major. These data suggest that a subset of students in introductory biology experience anxiety in response to active learning, and its potential impacts should be investigated.
Project description:This study describes feedback on the effects of changes introduced in our teaching practices for an introductory biochemistry course in the Life Sciences curriculum. Students on this course have diverse educational qualifications and are taught in large learning groups, creating challenges for the management of individual learning. We used the constructive alignment principle, refining the learning contract and re-drafting the teaching program to introduce active learning and an organization of activities that promotes the participation of all the students and helps their understanding. We also created teaching resources available through the university virtual work environment. Our research aimed to measure the effects of those changes on the students' success. Monitoring of the student performance showed a continuous increase in the percentage of students who passed the course, from 2.13% to 33.5% in 4 years. Analysis of student perceptions highlighted that the teaching methodology was greatly appreciated by the students, whose attendance also improved. The recent introduction of clickers-questions constituted a complementary leverage. The active involvement of the students and better results for summative assessments are altogether a strong motivation for teaching staff to continue to make improvements.
Project description:Although the use of clickers and peer discussion is becoming common in large-lecture undergraduate biology courses, their use is limited in small-enrollment seminar-style courses. To investigate whether facilitating peer discussion with clickers would add value to a small-enrollment seminar-style course, we evaluated their usefulness in an 11-student Embryology course at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Student performance data, observations of peer discussion, and interviews with students revealed that adding clickers to a small-enrollment course 1) increases the chance students will do the required reading before class, 2) helps the instructor engage all students in the class, and 3) gives students a focused opportunity to share thinking and to learn from their peers.
Project description:First-generation college students face a variety of barriers in higher education compared with their continuing-generation peers. Active learning practices in STEM classrooms can potentially narrow the achievement gap by increasing academic self-efficacy, or confidence in academic abilities. However, these practices can also provoke anxiety in students. Given that anxiety can impair cognitive performance, we sought to understand how first-generation students perceive active learning practices and whether these perceptions affect the anticipated benefits of active learning. As part of a larger study on pedagogical practices in anatomy and physiology courses at the community college level, we asked students to rate various active learning techniques on how much each provoked anxiety and how much each contributed to their learning. All students (N = 186) rated some techniques as more anxiety-provoking than others (e.g., cold calling); however, compared to continuing-generation students, first-generation students' ratings tended to be higher. First-generation students anticipated doing more poorly in a course and attained lower final grades. Notably, the use of active learning practices did not improve first-generation students' academic self-efficacy: by the end of term, academic self-efficacy decreased in non-white first-generation students whereas other students showed little change. When introducing active learning strategies, instructors may need to proactively address underrepresented minority students' emotional reactions and ensure that all students experience success with these practices early in a course as a way to bolster academic self-efficacy.
Project description:The Classroom Observation Protocol Undergraduate STEM (COPUS) tool was developed to quantify the time instructors and students engage in various activities within STEM courses. We offer a matrix of joint instructor-student behaviors rather than a pie chart of individual behaviors as an alternative perspective on the presentation of the results from the COPUS instrument. We suggest that the presentation of the results using this matrix tool allows for finer-scale insights into the learning environment in a classroom. Using this matrix tool, we identified four profiles of instructor-student behavior in undergraduate STEM classes at our regional comprehensive Master's institution: lecture, lecture plus (lecture with students posing questions to the instructor), standing clickers/IF-ATs (immediate feedback assessment technique-instructor poses questions using some form of immediate response method but does not move around groups), and roving groups (requiring instructor to move between groups). Prior to using the COPUS instrument we placed each of the observed faculty along the active learning spectrum. Our matrix tool was validated by alignment of the matrix tool profiles with these a priori designations. We offer suggestions regarding how this matrix tool can be best used to inform faculty professional development to move instructors along the active learning spectrum.
Project description:Audience response systems ('clickers') are frequently used to promote participation in large lecture classes, and evidence suggests that they convey a number of benefits to students, including improved academic performance and student satisfaction. The limitations of these systems (such as limited access and cost) can be overcome using students' personal electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops together with text message, web- or app-based polling systems. Using questionnaires, we compare student perceptions of clicker and smartphone based polling systems. We find that students prefer interactive lectures generally, but those that used their own device preferred those lectures over lectures using clickers. However, device users were more likely to report using their devices for other purposes (checking email, social media etc.) when they were available to answer polling questions. These students did not feel that this distracted them from the lecture, instead, concerns over the use of smartphones centred around increased battery usage and inclusivity for students without access to suitable technology. Our results suggest that students generally preferred to use their own devices over clickers, and that this may be a sensible way to overcome some of the limitations associated with clickers, although issues surrounding levels of distraction and the implications for retention and recall of information need further investigation.
Project description:BACKGROUND:High levels of burnout rates amongst medical students have been confirmed by numerous studies from diverse contexts. This study aims to explore the functional and dysfunctional coping strategies of medical students with regard to their respective burnout factors. METHODS:About 845 medical students in the 3rd, 6th, and 9th semesters and students in their final year were invited to take part in the survey. The self-administered questionnaire included items on potential functional and dysfunctional behavioural-based coping strategies as well as the Maslach Burnout Inventory-Student Version (MBI-SS). In addition, a comparison of the local results with a German reference sample involving other students was calculated. RESULTS:A total of 597 medical students (70.7%) participated in the cross-sectional study. The results showed high burnout rates, averaging 35%. Students in earlier stages of university education showed lower values for cynicism (a subdimension of burnout), but higher values for emotional exhaustion than students in higher stages. Concerning academic efficacy, there was a trend towards less efficient perception among students in higher education. The identified functional coping strategies were 'seeking support from friends', 'seeking support from family', 'doing relaxing exercise', 'doing sports' and 'seeking support from fellow students'. The identified dysfunctional coping strategies were 'taking tranquilizers', 'taking stimulants', 'drinking alcohol', 'withdrawal and ruminating', and 'playing games on the PC or mobile phone'. The medical students surveyed are more affected by burnout symptoms than the reference populations, but the overall result was difficult to interpret. CONCLUSIONS:The identified behavioural-based functional coping strategies suggest that social support and active relaxing exercises seem to be very important possibilities for medical students to reduce stress and exhaustion. The use of drugs and alcohol for stress reduction raises concerns. Programs are recommended to improve resilient behaviour and to impart the identified functional coping strategies to medical students.
Project description:The primary measure used to determine relative effectiveness of in-class activities has been student performance on pre/posttests. However, in today's active-learning classrooms, learning is a social activity, requiring students to interact and learn from their peers. To develop effective active-learning exercises that engage students, it is important to gain a more holistic view of the student experience in an active-learning classroom. We have taken a mixed-methods approach to iteratively develop and validate a 16-item survey to measure multiple facets of the student experience during active-learning exercises. The instrument, which we call Assessing Student Perspective of Engagement in Class Tool (ASPECT), was administered to a large introductory biology class, and student responses were subjected to exploratory factor analysis. The 16 items loaded onto three factors that cumulatively explained 52% of the variation in student response: 1) value of activity, 2) personal effort, and 3) instructor contribution. ASPECT provides a rapid, easily administered means to measure student perception of engagement in an active-learning classroom. Gaining a better understanding of students' level of engagement will help inform instructor best practices and provide an additional measure for comprehensively assessing the impact of different active-learning strategies.
Project description:Current instructional reforms in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses have focused on enhancing adoption of evidence-based instructional practices among STEM faculty members. These practices have been empirically demonstrated to enhance student learning and attitudes. However, research indicates that instructors often adapt rather than adopt practices, unknowingly compromising their effectiveness. Thus, there is a need to raise awareness of the research-based implementation of these practices, develop fidelity of implementation protocols to understand adaptations being made, and ultimately characterize the true impact of reform efforts based on these practices. Peer instruction (PI) is an example of an evidence-based instructional practice that consists of asking students conceptual questions during class time and collecting their answers via clickers or response cards. Extensive research has been conducted by physics and biology education researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of this practice and to better understand the intricacies of its implementation. PI has also been investigated in other disciplines, such as chemistry and computer science. This article reviews and summarizes these various bodies of research and provides instructors and researchers with a research-based model for the effective implementation of PI. Limitations of current studies and recommendations for future empirical inquiries are also provided.
Project description:Recent reports calling for change in undergraduate biology education have resulted in the redesign of many introductory biology courses. Reports on one common change to course structure, the active-learning environment, have placed an emphasis on student preparation, noting that the positive outcomes of active learning in the classroom depend greatly on how well the student prepares before class. As a possible preparatory resource, we test the efficacy of a learning module developed for the Virtual Cell Animation Collection. This module presents the concepts of meiosis in an interactive, dynamic environment that has previously been shown to facilitate learning in introductory biology students. Participants (n = 534) were enrolled in an introductory biology course and were presented the concepts of meiosis in one of two treatments: the interactive-learning module or a traditional lecture session. Analysis of student achievement shows that students who viewed the learning module as their only means of conceptual presentation scored significantly higher (d = 0.40, p < 0.001) than students who only attended a traditional lecture on the topic. Our results show the animation-based learning module effectively conveyed meiosis conceptual understanding, which suggests that it may facilitate student learning outside the classroom. Moreover, these results have implications for instructors seeking to expand their arsenal of tools for "flipping" undergraduate biology courses.