Although active-learning instruction can increase student’s ability to learn fundamental concepts in STEM and is associated with increased retention of underrepresented minorities, the results instructors achieve vary substantially. Instructors in undergraduate biology courses, while highly-trained research scientists, often have had few opportunities to be trained as educators, or to gain experience with active learning. Yet knowledge regarding teaching and learning, not just knowledge of course content, influences how instructors use active learning, thereby affecting student outcomes. There is likely to be important teacher knowledge that is generalizable across content, such as knowledge of how people learn, and teacher knowledge that is topic specific, such as knowledge of the difficulties student encounter as they learn natural selection. There is a critical need to determine the teacher knowledge that is important to using active learning effectively in undergraduate biology, especially in challenging contexts like large classes.
The goals of this project are to:
We are conducting a large-scale national study of the relationship between teacher knowledge, teacher practice, and student learning in large undergraduate biology courses. We use in-depth stimulated interviews to elicit knowledge used by instructors with a range of effectiveness as they plan, enact, and reflect on active learning. We also film classes and collet instructional materials to learn about teaching practices. We assess student learning using concept inventories in a pre/post-test design. We will use hierarchical linear models to investigate the relationships between different types of teacher knowledge, instructional practice, and student conceptual learning.
We are also using a longitudinal case study approach to better understand how teacher knowledge develops and influences teaching. We use in-depth stimulated interviews and videos of instruction to study teacher knowledge and practices over 3 years.
We will disseminate our results through peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations. We will also create a user’s guide for the teaching professional development model for graduate students that we test and refine. Lastly, the videos that we create as resources for faculty will be freely available in a video library called REALISE: Repository for Envisioning Active-Learning Instruction in Science Education.
Tessa Andrews, PI