MSLE Seminar: Introductory Biology Course Reform
12:00 pm - 1:00pm
Michèle Shuster, Associate Professor of Biology and Co-Director of the NMSU-HHMI Programs New Mexico State University Summary: at NMSU we have two introductory biology courses (Biol 111G and Biol 211G). Through a series of internal and external funding opportunities we have had the opportunity to implement and evaluate the impact of a variety of course structures in each course. These have included a traditional lecture, the use of in-class case studies, the use of peer-facilitated small-group workshops, and the use of in-class case studies facilitated by peer instructors. Based on overall pass rates as well as pass rates by gender and by underrepresented minority (URM) status, we have found that there are differences in the effectiveness of the different course structures in Biol 211G and in Biol 111G. Clearly, what is the best practice for one course is not the best practice for the other. There is also variation in how different groups (URM and non-URM) respond to the course structures in Biol 211G. In addition to pass rates, we have also monitored mastery of a particularly challenging topic in Biol 211G (cellular respiration) and student opinions about course structure. Our results suggest that instructors need to track course-specific outcomes in order to determine best practices in the context of a particular course at a particular institution. Instructors should be prepared to evaluate and respond to assessment data in order to continuously adapt approaches to enhance student success.