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Research Design

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Research Design


Several times during the Fall 2009 offering of BIOL 3151 (Principles of Animal Physiology), I selected a topic that students consistently had difficulty understanding (based on my 9 years of teaching this course), e.g. homeoviscous adaptation, O2-Hb dissociation relationships, etc.  I followed a lecture on the topic with pre-activity questions (administered using clickers), which was then followed by a structured team activity which required that groups of 3-4 students discuss answers to a series of "questions for thought" on the topic.  This team activity was followed by another set of clicker questions isomorphic to the pre-activity questions.  I also compared student performance on in-lecture clicker questions with similar questions administered several weeks later during their lecture midterm.  I also compared student performance on exam questions in this Fall 2009 cohort with the previous cohort of Fall 2008 (when no team-based learning activities were done).     



  • Paired t-test comparison of student performance (% correct responses) on pre- vs. post-activity clicker questions.
  • Paired t-test comparison of student performance on post-activity clicker questions with exam questions (administered weeks later) testing on the same topics.
  • Unpaired t-test comparison of student performance on relevant exam questions during Fall 2009 (team-based activities used) vs. Fall 2008 (no team-based activities used).    


  • There was a significant increase in the mean percentage of correct responses when comparing pre-activity (41.5%) to post-activity results (66.6%, one-tailed p < 0.001).
  • Student performance on the relevant exam questions (63.5%) administered weeks later were not significantly different from the post-activity clicker questions (p > 0.05).
  • I still need to do a comparison of student performance on exam questions that tested on topics not supplemented by team-based activities vs. those that were supplemented with team-based activities.
  • There was a significant increase in student performance when comparing mean performance on relevant exam quetions given in the team activity year, 2009 (63.5%) with the previous year, 2008 (37.6%), when no team activities were done (one-tailed p << 0.001). 
  • I still need to do a comparison of the effectiveness of think-pair-share activities versus the more structured team-based learning activities.

 (Note: I have the critical statistical values but didn't report them all here, e.g. SD/SE's, paired or unparied t-stat's, N's, etc.)



These results suggest that even sporadic use of team-based learning activities is effective in increasing understanding of particularly difficult concepts, and more importantly, in content retention.  This study also reinforces the value of electronic student response systems ("clickers") in the large lecture course. 

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