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1. Context and problem

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Class information

My research encompasses data from two courses:

Course: Immunology                                                      Course: Principles of Biology I (POB)

Semester: Fall 2008                                                        Semester: Fall 2008

Student population: Biology/Biochemistry majors        Student population: Potential Biology/Biochemistry majors                                                                                             (majority), Biology minors, Psychology majors

Number of students: 10-25                                             Number of students: 85 in each section (two sections total)

Level of students: junior/senior                                    Level of students: First-year (majority)

 


Scholar Implementation Plan

File IRB application: completed by September 2008

Data collection: completed by December 2008

Preliminary data analysis: by January 2008


Context

I have a roleplaying exercise that I use with my students to teach them the basics of an immune response.  In this exercise, each student takes on the role of a cell in the immune system, and the students receive props based upon their role (ballons, water bottles, gloves, etc.) I, as the instructor, narrate the students through both extracellular and intracellular infections, and the student "cells" learn how to interact with each other to successfully fight off the infections.  It's a really fun class, and one that I look forward to doing each year.  Last year, I faced the challenge of taking this roleplaying exercise from my small (20 students or less) Immunology class and adapting it to my much larger (70+ students) Principles of Biology course.  As I thought about this challenge, I began to ask questions about the exercise itself:

 

1. It's fun but does it truly teach them the information that I want them to learn?

2. If not all students are participating in the roleplaying (which would happen in my larger class), do observers of the roleplay learn as much as those who are actively involved?

3. Does the roleplay favor learning from any one specific student demographic (gender, race, level in school)?

 

So, I created a ten question multiple choice quiz that I used in a pre-test/post-test format.  This quiz asked questions about basic content (i.e. which type of cell makes antibodies?)  I adminstered it to both courses on the first day of the Immunology content of the course. (For Immunology this was the second day of class, for Principles of Biology it was near the end of the semester).  Significant differences in the number of correct multiple choice questions between pre-test and post-test were obtained for both classes, but there was not a significant difference in the number of correct answers gained between large and small classes.  There was no significant difference between the number of correct answers from Principles of Biology students who performed the roleplay compared to those that observed their classmates.  And it appears to be an "equal opportunity" exercise--I did not see significant differences in the number of correct answers between any of my demographic groups.  This led me to conclude that:

 

1. Learning does take place when the roleplay is used, and it seems to be equally effective in large and small classes. (Note: I need more data from my Immunology students, as the n = 10 for the data set so far)

2. Observers of the roleplay appear to gain as much information as those that participate, which means it can be scaled up to a larger class (at least for my purposes).

3. The exercise does not discriminate between different student demographic groups.

 

The problem

However, I still haven't tested the efficacy of the roleplay as compared to a traditional lecture.  This is my central question for the Biology Scholars Program.  I have multiple smaller questions within this idea:

1. Do students answer more total questions correctly after participating in/observing the roleplay, as compared to students who listened to lecture?

2. Do students who participated in/observed the roleplay answer more higher order thinking questions correctly compared to students who listened to lecture?

3. Is there a gain in knowledge when the roleplay is reinforced/reviewed using lecture (or vice versa)?  Does the order matter (is lecture first, then roleplay more beneficial than roleplay, then lecture?)

 

I hypothesize that the roleplay will teach students the details of an immune response "better" than a traditional lecture. By better, I mean that these students will be able to answer more questions correctly about the content.

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