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Capstone for Kristen Lennon

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The focus of my research this year has been an extension of exploratory work in undergraduate biology education that I’ve been wading through for several years. I’ve been asking the big questions of “Why are so many college students failing introductory biology?” and “What can we do, as educators, to help them achieve success and find the joy in science that we do?” I’ve had IRB approval for aspects of this for a few years, and this year’s work was deemed just an extension of that and so not worthy of a separate IRB process. 

This year, my focus has been on whether a take-home version of active learning could be as effective as in-class active learning exercises in bolstering student success. I learned a lot (!) about designing research studies, mostly from my own mistakes, and got some preliminary data indicating that well-made take-home “active” learning may very well be an option. You might ask why I wanted to know this. Because, in talking with colleagues I find that one of the biggest obstacles to student-centered active learning is a reluctance of faculty to do it in their classrooms. As recent papers have pointed out, even if they do attempt in-class active learning, it might not be effective if they don’t have proper grounding in science education.  See my poster as ASM-CUE. 

Right now, I’m looking to the future to follow up on this work, but need to find a venue – aka I’m on the market. I’d like to find a similar institution in which to do follow up. Not the giant universities like the ones at which the seminal work in active learning has been done, but one more like where most of us teach – not too big, not too small. We’ll see how it works out. 

Some influential publications: 

Freeman, S., O’Connor, E., Parks, J.W., Cunningham, M., Hurley, D., Haak, D., Dirks, C. . . . (2007). Prescribed active learning increases performance in introductory biology. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 6, 132-139. 

Freeman, S., Haak, D., & Wenderoth, M.P. (2011). Increased course structure improves performance in introductory biology. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 10, 175-186. 

Andrews, T.M., Leonard, M.J., Colgrove, C.A. & S.T. Kalinowski. (2011). Active learning not associated with student learning in a random sample of college biology courses. CBE Life Sciences Education,  10, 394-405. 

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