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Scholars please attach drafts of your abstracts below.

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Student Attitudes About Collaborative Exams
K. Archer, Trinity College, Hartford, CT

Many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of collaborative learning among small groups of students as they work on in-class questions.  Of the questions an instructor can pose, exam questions carry the highest stakes of all, and result in intense student focus during the exam period.  I am interested in knowing whether exam questions answered as a team can bring the intensity of exams together with the effectiveness of group discussion to yield improved comprehension.  Since students may resist an unfamiliar pedagogy, their acceptance may be critical for its success.  Here I report on how students who experience the group exam perceived it.   I hypothesized that a majority of students would perceive group exams positively.  Students (n= 57) in an introductory biology course were given 4 exams during the semester.  Each exam began with a section that was taken individually.  Once completed,  the individual exam was handed in and students then worked in small groups on a collaborative exam that included a subset of questions from the individual exam.  A single collaborative exam was turned in for each group.  The individual exam comprised 80%, and the group exam 20%, of the total exam grade.  Student attitudes about the group exam experience were assessed with questions on the course evaluations.  Most (60%) agreed with the statement “Our group discussions during group exams helped me understand at least once concept better.”  When invited to write about what they liked and didn’t like about them, most students (33/57) wrote positive responses, the most common was that they “were helpful in understanding the concepts (12/33).”  Of the negative responses (25/57), the most frequent was that “they took time away from the individual exam” (8/25).  The data suggest that student attitudes were generally favorable and that improved understanding was perceived by at least some students to be an outcome of the method.  

Kathleen Archer
( 860) 297-2226,


Clickers: Help or Hindrance to the Stimulation of Motivation and Engagement of Students in a Small Class Setting

Jacqueline Washington, Department of Biology and Chemistry, Nyack College, New York
Students in core non-major introductory science classes are often apprehensive, unmotivated, and underprepared. This presents significant challenges in their ability to have a positive, meaningful, learning experience. Various active learning strategies including the use of personal response systems or clickers have been shown to be successful in stimulating interest and promoting learning. Whereas the use of personal response systems have been shown to be effective in large classrooms, its effectiveness in the small classroom (n<30) has not been investigated. This study looked at the usefulness of clickers in stimulating and engaging students in the small classroom. Students in non-major Human Biology or General Biology courses were given pre- and post- motivation surveys, a mid-semester attitude survey and reflected daily on their level of engagement. Classroom pedagogy included the use of clickers or worksheets, videos, group work and discussion.  The results suggest while some students disliked clickers, overall its usage engages and promotes students learning just as well as other proven active learning strategies effective in smaller classrooms.


Students of All Learning Styles Report that Knowledge Maps are Beneficial to Learning
R.J. Gerrits, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
I have used expert-generated knowledge maps (similar to concept maps but with greater levels of structure and detail) for my physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology students for the past few years. In order to obtain more information related to their usefulness to student learning, I designed a survey to test the hypothesis that they would be beneficial to students of varying learning styles. The survey was administered to thirty-one previous students who had not taken any courses with me for at least one academic quarter. The survey was administered in sections, with the first section asking students to take and report their scores on the VARK exam, the second section asking free response questions such as “what was most beneficial to learning in Dr. Gerrits’ class” and the third section asking questions focused specifically on knowledge maps. Of the 26 students reporting their VARK scores, 10 showed no learning style preference and the rest showed preferences for V, A, R, and K with the following breakdown; 5, 1, 4 and 6, respectively. Twenty-nine students completed the free-response portion of the survey, with 69% mentioning the knowledge maps as being a class attribute that was most helpful to learning (in comparison 28% of students listed “ability to explain” and 17% listed “learning outcomes”). A Chi-square analysis with William’s correction indicated there was no association between learning style and the mention of knowledge map on free response (p = 0.42). When asked specifically about knowledge maps, 100% of respondents either strongly agreed or agreed that they were useful to learning, 94% have referred to them in subsequent courses, and 58% of students reported drawing their own in subsequent courses (drawing their own was also not associated with learning style via William’s corrected Chi-square analysis). These results indicate that students found the knowledge maps useful during the course for which they were designed, as well as in subsequent courses.
Ron Gerrits, 414 277-7561,
Team-based Learning in a Large Lecture Course: Effective Even in Small Doses 
C.Y. Inouye. California State University, East Bay, Hayward, CA.  
There is mounting evidence that team-based learning is highly effective in improving comprehension, critical thinking, and content retention. However, this evidence comes primarily from studies of relatively small (< 30 students) classes and often involves the wholesale delivery of a course in the student-centered format, requiring a more comprehensive conversion from the didactic lecture format. In a large (80 students) lecture course in animal physiology, I investigated the effect of a more conservative integration of team-based activities on learning and retention. About once each week in a 10-week course, I selected a topic that students consistently had difficulty understanding (e.g. homeoviscous adaptation, hemoglobin-oxygen dissociation relationships) and proceeded a lecture on the topic with pre-activity questions (administered using clickers), followed by a structured team-based activity which required that groups of 3-4 students discuss answers to a series of “questions for thought” on the topic. The team activity was followed by another set of clicker questions isomorphic to the pre-activity questions. There was a significant increase in the mean percentage of correct answers when comparing pre-activity (41.8%) and post-activity responses (66.6%, paired t = -6.15, p < 0.001). Student performance (mean score 63.5%) on the relevant exam questions administered weeks later were similar to post-activity performance.  Furthermore, there was a significant increase in student performance when comparing mean performance on relevant exam questions administered in the team activity year, 2009 (63.5%), with the previous year (2008) when no team activities were done (37.6%, unpaired t = 6.06, p << 0.001). Comparisons of the effectiveness of think-pair-share activities versus more structured team-based learning activities will also be discussed. 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.   
Caron Inouye
(510) 885-4479,  
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What Freshman Biology Students Know About Science and What They Say They Know About Science: Does It Really Matter? 

 J. E. Davis. Doña Ana Community College-New Mexico State University. Las Cruces, NM, USA 

 The author created and administered a set of end-of-semester questions to the 55 students in two freshman-level courses at Doña Ana Community College-New Mexico State University (General Biology I, n = 18; Biology for Non-majors, two sections, n = 37) to test a hypothesis that a course design that emphasizes the “process of science” increases perceived interest in biology in both science majors and non-majors, which might also lead some students with undeclared majors to major in biology. Many published reports suggest that inquiry- (or process-) based learning, where the emphasis is not on being “right” or “wrong” but on students creating and testing hypotheses, promotes positive student attitudes and self-concept, which in turn promotes student interest in biology, a key factor in getting students to major in biology. As part of the end-of-semester survey, students were asked how course design and instructional methods influenced their attitudes about biology as well as questions to assess their actual knowledge of the scientific process (e.g., could they distinguish a “hypothesis” from a “theory”). Finally, General Biology I students completed a survey from the Individual Development and Education Assessment (I.D.E.A.) Center to self-assess student attitudes as well as learning in terms of course objectives identified as “essential” by the instructor. In response to the instructor survey, 71 to 100% of students (depending on section and course) indicated that their interest in biology had increased over the course of the semester, which was consistent with the results of the I.D.E.A. survey. While a small percentage of students (up to 5% in the non-majors course) said they were less likely to major in a science at the end of the semester, 27% of the 37 students in the two non-majors sections said they would consider a science major (two signed up for General Biology I the following semester). Of the eight “undeclared” students who finished General Biology I, four either declared Biology as their major or are de facto Biology majors since they enrolled in biology courses the following semester that are usually only taken by Biology majors. The hypothesis that a “process of science”-based course stimulated student interest is accepted, and positive attitudes, which are also important for learning, also increased (this is the revised abstract that was re-submitted to ASMCUE). 


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Does Exposure to Bloom’s Levels of Understanding Help Students Develop Higher Order Thinking Skills? 

L. K. Etchberger, Utah State University, Uintah Basin Regional Campus, Vernal, UT.

Successful biology students must develop critical thinking skills. Students taking the introductory course for majors at our rural campus are diverse in their study competencies, contributing to a high attrition rate (up to 50%). I assessed whether teaching my students to use Bloom’s levels of understanding would help them develop critical thinking skills and metacognition in an effort to improve learning and retention. To teach Bloom’s levels of cognition, I gave a mini-lecture on the first day of class, lead a class discussion on reasons for achieving higher-order cognitive skills (HOCS; applying, analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing), and distributed the Bloom’s-based Learning Activities for Students (BLASt; Crowe et. al., 2008) as a guide for their studying.  After the first exam, students used peer instruction with clickers to label the Bloom’s level of sample exam questions. Bloom’s skill levels for subsequent exam questions were indicated to reinforce student awareness of Bloom’s levels throughout the semester.  I assessed student learning using the introductory biology concept assessment (J. Knight, personal communication).  Students in my class fell into two distinct groups according to normalized learning gains ( 0.12 and 0.25, mean = 0.29, Std Dev = 0.22; N = 15). At the end of the course, 80% of the students (N = 15) demonstrated HOCS (novel application or analysis) without prompting when responding to an open-ended question post assessment (60% of low learning gains group, N=5; 90% of high learning gains group, N=10) compared to just 40% in the pre-assessment. Anonymous student assessment of learning gains demonstrated that the Bloom’s activities provided “much” or “great” help in their learning for 67% of respondents (N=9). These and other data support Bloom’s education as a worthwhile intervention for improving metacognition and critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, attrition remained high with only nine (all in the high learning gains group) of the twenty-two students enrolled continuing in the second semester.

Crowe, A., Dirks, C., and Wenderoth, M.P. (2008). Biology in Bloom: Implementing Bloom's Taxonomy to Enhance Student Learning in Biology. CBE Life Sci Educ 7, 368-381. 

Lianna Etchberger

(435) 722-1783,

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Viewing 1 of 1 comments: view all
Hi all,

I am not sure whether we need to each created a new page for our abstract or just attached the file, I chose to attach the file, hope this is alright.

Can hardly wait to see us all in San Diego:-)

Posted 17:56, 3 Feb 2010
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