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Annot. Bibs 08-09

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Overview of Learning

Bransford, J.D., Brown,A.L and Cocking,R.R. (Eds.) (1999) How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, D.C. :National Research Council, National Academy Press.
This NRC report presents a thorough review of the literature concerning learning strategies that encourage and are barriers to student learning.  Their major findings include the following: 1) student misconceptions are a barrier to their learning and these misconceptions must be challenged if they are to be changed, 2) to build meaningful understanding of a discipline need both factual knowledge and a strong conceptual framework into which to put those facts, 3) strong metacognitive skills are necessary for learners.
Mental Models
Modell, H.I., (2000) How to help students understand physiology?  Emphasize general models. Advances in Physiology Education 23:101-107.
This article is the basis for my intent to incorporate general models into my physiology course.  Model presents his concept of general models as a way to help students better understand physiology. General Models represent first principles that can be applied across physiological systems. General Models help student build robust mental models of physiological systems that allow them to predict consequences of changes to those system.  General models help students transfer their mechanistic understanding to systems they have not yet studied.
Gentner,D.  &  Stevens, A. (Eds.) (1983) Mental Models. Mahwah, NJ :Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
This book lays out the basic premise of how learners use and develop mental models to develop deep understanding.  They indicate that the ways student build, test and refine their mental models is dependent on  the nature of the domain studied, the nature of the theoretical approach, and the nature of the methodology.
Herbert, BE, (2003) The role of scaffolding student metacognition in developing mental models of complex, Earth and environmental systems, DFG-NSF International Workshops on Research and Development in Mathematics and Science Education,Washington D.C.
Available online at
Earth and environmental systems study a complex and dynamic set of variables that cover a wide range of scales ( time, size, disciplines) and thereby pose a large challenge to students attempting to build their mental models. His project seeks to develop and assess IT-based learning environments that fosters student development of rich mental models of environmental systems through metacognitive scaffolding, manipulation of multiple representations, use of authentic, complex and ill-constrained problems.  This project provides a thorough set of guidelines for developing and assessing educational material to guide effective student development of robust mental models.
How people learn web sites
Entwistle, N.J. (2001) A summary of the ‘Teaching for Understanding’ project
he is PI of the ETL center at the University of Edinburgh.  They have a great publlication list and videos to watch.  He  developed the RASI- revised approaches to study inventory.
Everson, H.T. & Tobias, S., (1998) The ability to estimate knowledge and performance in college: A metacognitive analysis”,  Instructional Science 26: 65–79.
Tobias, S., & Everson, H. (2000) Assessing metacognitive knowledge monitoring.  In G. Schraw & J. Impara (Eds.), Issues in measurement of metacognition 147-222. Lincoln, NE: Buros Institute of Mental Measurement.
Tobias, S., & Everson, H.(2002)  Knowing what you know and what you don't: Further research on metacognitive knowledge monitoring.  College Board Report No. 2002-3.  College Board, NY.
    Assessing student metacognition will be one of the challenges of my project.  These authors examine learners’ ability to differentiate between what they know and do not know. Their findings indicate learners of all levels of ability and developmental stages are affected by their ability to monitor their learning. They have focused on the correlation between knowledge monitoring and student’s academic performance.
Isaacson, R.M. & Fujita, F., (2006) Metacognitive Knowledge Monitoring and Self-Regulated Learning:  Academic Success and Reflections on Learning. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 6, (1), 39 – 55.  
    These authors studied how student’s metacognitive skills impacted self-regulated learning (SRL) skills in undergraduates. They found that high achieving students were: more accurate at predicting their test results; more realistic in their goals; more likely to adjust their confidence in-line with their test results; and more effective in choosing test questions to which they knew the answers.
Kuiper, R. “Enhancing Metacognition through the Reflective Use of Self-Regulated Learning Strategies.” Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing 33, no. 2 (March-April 2002): 78-87.
"Using a comparative descriptive design, self-regulated learning strategies were used to enhance metacognitive critical thinking abilities. The data suggested that nursing education and practice consider using self-regulated learning prompts with new graduates to promote thinking strategies." ERIC 39-S.Imel
Schraw, G., and Dennison, R. S. “Assessing Metacognitive Awareness". Contemporary Educational Psychology 19, no. 4 (October 1994): 460-475.
A 52-item inventory was constructed to measure the metacognitive awareness of adults. Items were classified into eight subcomponents under categories of knowledge and regulation of cognition. Implications for assessment were identified.
web site from Schraw's class with metacognition survey.
Schraw, G.(1998)  "Promoting General metacognitive awareness" Instructional Sciences  26 (1-2):113-125
Vadhan, V., & Stander, P. (1994) Metacognitive Ability and Test Performance among College Students. Journal of Psychology, 128 (3):307-311.
Undergraduate at a community college were asked to predict their grade on an exam prior to taking the exam. Predicted grades were compared to actual grades on the exam.  They found that students with higher actual grades demonstrated an understanding that helped them to more accurately evaluate their own performances.
Bloom, B. (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, the classification of educational goals – Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay
This is the classic study that proposed six cognitive domains: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation.  Each domain is explained and relevant examples across disciplines are provided.  This work provides a simple and straight forward means of helping faculty monitor and align their teaching and testing as well as provide a framework for students to both monitor and structure their studying.
SOLO learning taxonomy
BIGGS J (1993) "What do inventories of students' learning process really measure? A theoretical review and clarification" Brit. J. Ed. Psych. vol 83 pp 3-19
BIGGS J (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press-
***Chris highly recommends this book.- used in his teaching certificate program in Australia.
Higher order questions
Can Undergraduate Biology Students Learn to Ask Higher Level Questions?( 2000) Gili Marbach-Ad,G and P. G. Sokolove. J. R. S.T. 37(8):854± 870
Threshold Concepts
Meyer and Land 2003
Meyer and Land 2005
Reflective Thinking
Reflective Thinking: RT
    This web site defines reflective thinking, indicates RTs connection to building critical thinking in learners and offers practical class room activities to promote RT.
Thompson G, Pilgrim, A., and Oliver, K. (2005) Self-assessment and reflective learning for first year university geography students: A simple guide or simply misguided? Journal of Geography in Higher Education. 29. 403-420.
    These authors designed a set of learning materials and activities who purpose is to guide students towards independent learning by encouraging them to reflect more on ‘what' and ‘how' they learn. Results of the 2003 and 2004 trials showed that the self-assessment schedule had a positive impact on student learning and was at least partially effective in improving students' critical thinking skills.
08-This assignment of searching for previous research in the SoTL field was an extremely interesting and an eye opening experience for someone like me, who is use to going to Pubmed on a daily basis and immediately finding almost an exact match to what I am looking for.  Certainly this was not the case when I tried to search all the different sites suggested in our assignment starting with some of the keywords I had in mind for my research.  After working my way around many very interesting but at best tangentially relevant material, I came to believe that there are three main reasons for this: 1. I am still in the process of defining exactly and clearly what my project is going to be about and learning the precise or appropriate jargon that go with it.  2.  It seems like in the SoTL field a lot of referencing to other work and their findings is very anecdotal, so it is extremely difficult to trace some ideas or data to primary sources or citations. 3.  There really seems to be a lack of previous work in the specific area I am interested (which I am surprised at, but happy about at the same time)
       So most of the following annotated references, as well as many others I started collecting are articles that helped me redefine my project as:  The relative importance of discipline specific prior knowledge (specifically chemistry and biology) versus informal and/or formal logic skills for success (defined as demonstrating “critical thinking”) in an interdisciplinary field (specifically in the field of biochemistry).

1.    Thompson Ross, A., Zamboanga Byron L., (2004) Academic Aptitude and Prior Knowledge as Predictors of Student Achievement in Introduction to Psychology. Journal of Educational Psychology. Vol. 96 No.4 778-784
    This is the only article that comes relatively close to the type research I would like to carry out for my project.  It describes the results of a study that aims to determine whether preexisting differences in the general ability or the aptitude of the students contribute (and if so to what degree) to the previously studied positive association of prior knowledge with course achievement. It starts out by discussing the impact of prior knowledge in new learning, both potentially assisting and hindering it and how it specifically affects psychology courses.  The authors then pose the question if the facilitating effects of prior knowledge could perhaps be due to differences in general student ability or aptitude.  To answer this question they used pretest scores to predict exam performance in regressions that included measures of student aptitude as well as course-related influences on student achievement (American College Test –ACT- scores were used as a part of aptitude evaluation).  They also set out to investigate if prior knowledge could also be a source of misconception and erroneous ideas that can undermine accurate understanding.  To assess this point they created a second pretest that assessed students’ endorsement or rejection of ideas from the popular culture related to topics in psychology.  Their findings showed that measures of prior knowledge as indexed by the pretest of psychological knowledge is the most significant predictor of course achievement even with measures of academic aptitude (i.e. ACT scores) and course involvement controlled.  However, they also found out that ACT scores were strongly related to exam performance underscoring the importance of preexisting differences in student aptitude or ability. 

2.    Newell William H. (1992) Academic Disciplines and Undergraduate Interdisciplinary Education: lessons from the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Miami University, Ohio.  European Journal of Education, Vol. 27, No.3
    This article discusses in a much broader sense (since it reflects on the complete Interdisciplinary Studies program at Miami University) the relevance and/or importance of disciplinary background in student learning in interdisciplinary courses as well as if interdisciplinary courses could adequately prepare students for advanced work in specific disciplines.  It is an exploration of different issues posed by advocates and critics of interdisciplinary programs about the relationship between disciplines and interdisciplinary education and a summary of how they are resolved in practice within the context of an exemplary interdisciplinary program.  It details out many specifics within the program such as the description of the program, student preparation, staff preparation, visibility and roles of disciplines within the courses, and disciplinary outcomes of the courses.  It also discusses different approaches employed for the assessment of disciplinary skills gained through interdisciplinary courses.  It concludes that interdisciplinary courses promote the same intellectual rigor as traditional disciplinary courses since it utilizes concepts, theories and methods from various disciplines with exactly the same rigor.  However since it is more than the pieces of disciplines from which they are constructed, they extract the perspective embedded in each of those pieces to produce a broader, more holistic perspective.  It argues that the interdisciplinary process is ideally suited for the promotion of “strong sense critical thinking” while disciplinary courses often promote “weak sense of critical thinking”.
I found this article very valuable in clearly laying out and comparing skills expected and gained in disciplinary versus interdisciplinary courses in what seemed to be a relatively objective and pretty inclusive point of view.

3.    Lauer Thomas (2005) Teaching Critical-Thinking Skills Using Course Content Material: A Reversal of Roles.  Journal of College Science Teaching, May/Jun 2005; 34,6 p.34
This article describes the challenges of successfully implementing the teaching of content material using Bloom’s six hierarchical levels of intellectual growth in the classroom and demonstrates a successful strategy to achieve this goal when critically thinking pedagogy is used to teach content as well as teach students how to think critically.  The author evaluated if higher-order critical-thinking skills could be taught in a classroom using course content material, by using the concept of critical thinking without specifically identifying or labeling it in class.  He presented the concept in three phases: introduction, mastery, and evaluation and used everyday examples to demonstrate each phase.  He also detailed very specifically an in practical terms how he structured his classes to guide students along the way and assess their progress. Finally, he summarized and analyzed his findings to conclude that thinking at a higher level can be taught in the classroom using course content material and placing less emphasis on teaching factual knowledge and more on conceptual-thinking skills should be a high priority for science instructors since it would provide students lifelong skills, rather than short term gains in learned information.
    Although this study was not directly related to an investigation of the effect of prior state of students for success in developing conceptual-thinking skills, it provided extremely valuable insight of how one can go about achieving it in class specifically during a course and helped to clarify for me how to separate pre-course parameters I wanted to test for my project from the in-course parameters that will certainly impact the outcome, by identifying specific elements I would work on (and keep constant) during the course I would like to use to perform my studies on and helping me decide on how I define my “successful outcome”. 

4.    Paul Richard, Elder Linda (2007) White Paper: Consequential Validity: Using Assessment to Drive Instruction. September 2007. PDF accessed 07/03/08
This article outlines “The Critical Thinking Community ”’s definition of critical thinking and describes what the students are expected to learn about critical thinking during the teaching of discipline based thinking to better devise instruction that match that particular end view.  The authors describe the main goal of conceptualization of critical thinking as getting every student in every class at every moment “intellectually engaged”.  Then they go on defining intellectual engagement and describe what is required to teach for intellectual engagement.  Then they talk about the importance of using assessment as the guiding force in instruction and discuss what typical standardized “critical thinking” tests actually test.  Finally they compare holistic vs. componential assessment and conclude that substantial work needs to be done to work towards finding assessment strategies that test student’s ability to make the connections between the logic of the discipline they are studying and what is important in life.  This, they claim, will ensure that the students to become self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinkers.
I also found this article very useful in terms of helping me define very clearly what I would like to use as my success target for my interdisciplinary biochemistry course(s) I want to include in my project and think about different criteria to evaluate student performance. 

5.    Hirsh E. Donald. Jr. (2003) Not So Grand a Strategy. Education Next, Spring 2003, Vol.3, no. 2
I valued this article a lot because it outlined some valid concerns about introducing the “higher-order (thinking) skills” too early on in the education system without giving students enough opportunities to learn basic content first.  The author argued using some very specific examples that to successful demonstration of higher order thinking skills is strongly dependent on competence in the curricular content through which the skill is taught and hence cannot be taught and exercised as an independent abstract and general concept.  He talked about the importance of “activating the knowledge bank” and expanding the “working memory” through the availability of relevant, previously acquired knowledge.  He claims that for practical purposes there are no such things as transferable higher skills of problem solving.  Student’s ability to perform well in problem solving depends on having the relevant information in his working memory and describes the results of emphasizing teaching “higher-order skills”in the expense of curricular content has been damaging to those students who have not gained broad academic knowledge outside of school.
    I found this article useful and relevant to my research project because it provides specific examples and evidence that argues for the importance of discipline based prior knowledge (one of the parameters I would like to test) for success in higher order skills that I would like to use as a criteria for success in an interdisciplinary course.  
6.    Harper-Marinick Maria (2001)  Thinking Critically about Critical Thinking. mcli Forum Teaching, Learning, and Technology in the Maricopa Community Colleges, Fall 2001, Volume 2
This article is one of the articles included in the mcli Forum as a part of their learning and instruction initiatives and describes the need to go beyond mastering the content knowledge and be proficient in critical thinking to be successful in today’s world.  While acknowledging the importance of relevant knowledge and previous experience in developing critical thinking and problem solving skills however, it emphasizes the need to incorporate facts and concepts into evaluative thinking.
    What I liked about this short article was the fact that it nicely bulleted assumptions about critical thinking from previous research, providing additional references to look into if needed and providing its own definition about critical thinking, again giving me an opportunity to think about how to define student achievement for my project.
1. Steven Cunningham, Steven, McNear, Brad, Pearlman, Rebecca and Scott Kern (2006) Beverage-Agarose Gel Electrophoresis: An Inquiry-based Laboratory Exercise with Virtual Adaptation. CBE- Life Sciences Education. Vol. 5, 281–286, Fall 2006
2. Michaels, John, Allred Kelly, Bruns Christina, Lim, Wan, Lowrie, Jr, and Wade Hedgren. (2005).  Virtual Laboratory Manual for Microscopic Anatomy. The Anatomical Record (Part B: New Anat.) 284B:17–21.
3. Lundin, M, Lundin, J, Helin, H, and J Isola. (2004). A digital atlas of breast histo-pathology: an application of web based virtual microscopy J Clin Pathol; 57: 1288–1291.
4. Maged Kamel Boulos, Inocencio Maramba and Steve Wheeler. (2006) Wikis, blogs and podcasts: a new generation of Web-based tools for virtual collaborative clinical practice and education. BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:41
5. Selective use of the primary literature transforms the classroom into a virtual laboratory. (2007). Hoskins, Sally, Stevens  Leslie and Ross Nehm. Genetics Education: Innovations in Teaching and Learning Genetics. Edited by Patricia J. Pukkila.
In this study, the researchers explored 10th grade-students' understanding of molecular genetics, focusing on genes as physical entities, but also as packets of information. The authors argue that students struggle with this information for three reasons: the concepts are inaccessible to the students because they are sub-cellular, the concepts are spread across many biological levels, and that multiple molecules are key players that also span many hierarchical levels. They assessed the students using written assessment and interviews before and after instruction. What I liked about their assessment tools is they used open-ended questions that avoided "false positives" for misconceptions -- a problem outlined in Jenny's reference, Clerk and Rutherford (2000). They focused their interviewing on the relationship between genes and proteins, but their methods and many of their questions could be expanded to include the relationships between genes, chromosomes and DNA. While they identify some interesting misconceptions they did not explore the source of those misconceptions. Are they a lack of background (and so not really a misconception -- just a lack of any understanding)? Or are they caused by something in previous coursework or popular media? I would like to expand on their work and include the source of these alternative conceptions.  
2. Marbach-Ad G. (2001) "Attempting to Break the Code in Student Comprehension of Genetic Concepts", Journal of Biological Education, 35(4); 183-189.  
While most studies I have read have been conducted on a specific grade level, this research spans early high school, late high school, college and post-degree, pre-service teachers. Students were assessed on their understanding of molecular genetics using open-ended questions on written questionnaires and verbal interviews as well as concept maps (see more below in 3b). They received fascinated results.Students at all levels compartmentalized their definitions of "genes", "DNA" and "Chromosomes" as either structural (chromosomes) OR functional (genes and DNA), but not both. If the definition was functional, terms were made distinct even though, in reality, they have similar functions. For example, genes "determine traits" and DNA "transfers hereditary information from one generation to the next". The conclusion of the study was that students at all levels fail to make many connections, both structural and functional, required for a full-picture understanding of molecular genetics.  
Many students claim, correctly or not, that they are visual learners.Both these papers use visual tools to facilitate and assess student learning. I like the first paper because the authors present a drawing-based learning activity that encourages students to analyze, complete and replicate figures commonly found in biology textbooks. The upper-level high-school students were assessed on their understanding of molecular genetics after the activity and their scores and learning attitudes were compared with a control group who received traditional instruction. The researchers found that the visual tools increased student performance on the post-instructional assessment. In the second paper, biology majors were given an introduction to concept maps and asked to create a concept map of various terms in molecular genetics. The researchers then used the concept map as a tool to assess student understanding of the concepts. By using this assessment technique the researchers were able to uncover several misconceptions that were previously unidentified by the instructor.  
I included these papers for two reasons. First, some of their assessment methods using drawing or concept maps could be used in my assessment. Second, someday I hope to develop instructional methods that target these misconceptions and the techniques presented in these papers may be a good place to start.  
I have previously conducted research in my classroom on student understand of molecular genetics, but the assessment tool we used (mostly multiple choice) failed to assess how sure students were in their answers. In order for a wrong answer to be deemed a misconception, the student must have some confidence in their incorrect answer and not be guessing. In this paper, the authors present a study on the usefulness and gender-neutrality of implicit confidence tests -- tests used with multiple-choice assessment to measure students' confidence in their understanding. They provide substantial background about misconceptions and include their logic for using the two-dimensional tests (TDTs). The focus of this research was to test this method for gender bias. Previous research has indicated that female students are naturally less confident in their opinion, so they compared the number of times students of each gender indicated they were "confident", "semi-confident" or guessing on the TDT. Their results indicate there is no difference in the selection rate of those options between the genders.  
I did not know about this paper until I read Jenny Knight's bibliography, so I want to give her full credit for finding this resource! As I create assessment tools this paper seemed important to include as it directly addresses the over-diagnosis of "misconceptions" (AKA "alternative conceptions") in education. I agree with the authors when they describe multiple-choice tests as creating the illusion of misconceptions that do not actually exist. To test this hypothesis, they administered a multiple-choice physics exam to 48 students and selected 9 students for a follow-up interview to more deeply explore their understanding of the material.In their results, 23.5% of all "misconceptions" are false positives, meaning students answered the question incorrectly on the written exam, but demonstrated sufficient understanding during the interview. An average of 16% of the incorrect answers to the physics questions they raised revealed true misconceptions; that is questions that were answered incorrectly on the written exam and again in the interview. This study emphasizes the importance of creating discerning assessment tools and using multiple methods to measure student understanding. 

The paper by Singer et al. is one of two papers (the other is: Giese AR. 2005. Using inquiry and phylogeny to teach comparative morphology.The American Biology Teacher 67: 412 – 417.) whose methods we merged to create our own laboratory stream.  One goal of this work was to have students learn that phylogenetic trees are graphical representations of hypotheses about evolution.  The authors also point out that practicing phylogenetic analysis provides practice in critical thinking, strengthening students' logical and mathematical abilities, and their problem-posing and problem-solving skills.  Singer et al. provided skeletons of five animals (opossum, dog, cat, rat and rabbit) to their students, who were then asked to generate a character matrix based on observations of these skeletons.  Using this matrix, and other information on the anatomy, physiology, behavior and ecology of these animals, students were asked to propose a hypothesis of evolutionary relationship, using the extinct Megazostrodon as an outgroup (there are 105 possible hypotheses).  Students then tested this "tentative statement" using DNA sequence data to infer a phylogeny of these five animal group, showing the students that hypothesis are tentative statements that are open to testing and revision using additional data or data from a different source.  In our own work, we have used the opossum as outgroup, and then show the students that there are only 15 possible phylogenies.  Our students are given two of these 15 trees, and then asked to develop an explanation of why one is better than the other by mapping individual characters onto their trees and applying the principle of parsimony.
Lord, Thomas and Terri Orkwiszewski. (2006) Didactic to Inquiry-Based Instruction in a Science Laboratory. The American Biology Teacher 68 (6): 342-45.
Lord and Orkwiszewski discuss the ramifications of inquiry based science laboratories.They performed a study that compared performance in an inquiry based laboratory compared to a cookbook using several hundred studies. While there results supported the value of inquiry methods the paper was particularly valuable for me because of the tools used for the analysis.Pre and post tests were required of all students participating.Assessment tools will be particularly important to determine the degree to which specific assignments produce specific outcomes.The weekly testing on comprehension and the amount of time concepts resonated with specific students could also be an important gauge for student learning.Also important is the conclusion from the written comments that students will love or hate any method you give them based on previous experience, what they perceive as reasonable demands and degree of engagement in higher education.Overall a very nicely presented study that provides important data in support of inquiry in college laboratories.
Rogers, Meredith A. Park and Sandra K. Abell. (2008) The design, enactment, and experience of inquiry-based instruction in undergraduate science education: A case study. Science Education 92(4): 591-607
The Rogers and Abell paper provides an introduction to inquiry methods and its development over the past forty years including discussion of the terminology used in inquiry based methods.They note that while inquiry has been discussed by science educators since the nineteen sixties there has been little data collected on the outcomes achieved with this specific set of teaching methods.The journal article provided a study on inquiry based instruction for a smaller group of students than the Lord and Orkwiszewski paper.They used a number of assessment tools within the classroom and outside of the classroom that would be useful for collecting data on student learning outcomes and achievement rather than simple course grades.Their focus was on learning for non-majors.Their conclusion was that the experience allowed students to gain a better perspective on the process of science rather than facts of science.Their approach will be helpful when I hone my hypothesis as I teach both majors and non majors using a variety of approaches in each classroom.
Basey, John, Loren Sackett, and Natalie Robinson. 2008. Optimal science lab design: Impacts of various components of lab design on students’ attitudes towards lab.International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 2(1): 1-15.
This paper does a great job of aligning instructional goals with intended outcome.There are two issues that must be addressed before one can develop a hypothesis regarding the use of a specific technique in the classroom.First is what does one intend the outcome of a specific experience to be and then second are the students achieving that.This requires different tools than are the students engaged in the materials.Effective teaching will require identifying intended outcomes of the use of authentic research in the classroom and designing the assessment tools to determine whether the outcomes were achieved.The paper focuses on research that would allow users to identify “optimal science lab design” based on the student achievement given a specific set of required outcomes.Assessment tools necessary for developing the optimal lab design are described, which will provide a new set of tools that can be evaluated for use in my project.
Jenkins, Alan and Mick Healey.2005.Institutional strategies to link teaching and research.Higher Education Academy, York, United Kingdom.68 Pp.
The paper presented an argument for integrating research into the educational system.The benefits associated with use of research in the classroom are discussed and the conflicts with institutional assessment of performance are also addressed.The means by which institutions can begin to move towards blending teaching and research and the outcomes of such movement are addressed.The content is important for introducing the concepts that authentic research will improve the laboratory environment.As with several other papers it was not the content of the paper that will be helpful with the study but in identifying the source of the material.The Higher Education Academy has a wealth of information on teaching however in this case there are a large number of resources that emphasize the utility of research in the classroom.
Improving undergraduate education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Report of a workshop.National Academy of Sciences.176 Pp.
The report focuses on the outcome of a workshop wherein educators discussed mechanisms by which undergraduate STEM education could be improved.Each of the chapters has information that is worthwhile with regards to improving classroom experiences and learning outcomes for students.The specific challenges addressed in the document are how to measure learning in undergraduate STEM courses, how to create criteria and benchmarks to assess instruction using these measurements, and how such a framework could be used at the institutional level to bring about change in STEM education.As assessment tools will be important for conducting a study on learning outcomes tools will be important.However as important are the thoughts in this document on organizing your ideas regarding appropriate and achievable outcomes for students and the experiences that others have had in this arena. This report was also important in my investigation for research materials because it led me to the important resources available from the National Academy of Sciences.
Cusick, Judy. (2001) Practicing Science: The Investigative Approach in College Science Teaching. An NSTA Press Journals Collection. National Science Teachers Association, Arlington, VA. 71 pp.
While I have not read the entire collection the document provides a wealth of examples of how to bring inquiry to the classroom both with research and other activities.It provides messages on skill development, benefits of specific approaches, pitfalls, and lessons on how to improve content learning in a wide range of classrooms across a wide range of disciplines.The great value of this particular piece is that it lead me to the great resources available thought the NSTA.
What resources/references have you found helpful?
Morrison, K. (1996) Developing reflective practice in higher degree students through a learning journal, Studies in Higher Education, 21, pp. 317-32
Park, C. (2003) Engaging students in the learning process: the learning journal, Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 27, pp. 183–199
McCrindle A. R. and Christensen C. A. (1995) The impact of learning journals on metacognitive and cognitive processes and learning performance, Learning and Instruction, 5, pp. 167-85
Varner D. and Peck S. R. (2003) Learning From Learning Journals: The Benefits And Challenges Of Using Learning Journal Assignments, Journals of management, Journal of Management Education, 27, pp. 52-77
Bean, J. (2001) Engaging Ideas. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
The first three references pertain to my immediate biology scholars project.  The last three are on a related topic of how to measure critical thinking, a topic I hope to pursue in the future.    
1.Clerk, D and Rutherford, M (2000). Language as a Confounding Variable in the Diagnosis of Misconceptions. International Journal of Science Education 22(7): 703-717. 
This article asserts that the labeling of student ideas as misconceptions is often incorrect, and that instead, students pick particular multiple choice answers because of language inaccuracies in how the question is written, or a misunderstanding of particular terms.The authors chose multiple choice questions on Newtonian mechanics from published physics papers that had been used to supposedly reveal student misconceptions.They tested 48 students and conducted detailed interviews with 9 of these students.Their main conclusion was that language usage frequently prevented students from answering questions correctly, resulting in “false positives”, where just by looking at students’ answers, one might conclude that a misconception was held.When students explained their reasoning, however, they often did not have the misconception.This paper was particularly interesting to me because I’m in the middle of writing a paper with my colleagues Michelle Smith and Bill Wood on a Genetics Assessment Tool designed to measure conceptual understanding of genetics.We have conducted many interviews, and used student’s ideas to write the distracters. I’m now using common student choices from this assessment to pick out what might be shared and persistent “misconceptions” (perhaps I should use the word “incorrect ideas”?) between majors and non-majors. This paper reminded me that I need to be sure students are not being confounded by language.  
2.Lewis, J and Wood-Robinson, C (2000).Genes, Chromosomes, Cell Division and Inheritance—Do Students See Any Relationship?International Journal of Science Education 22(2): 177-195.  
In this paper, the authors discuss students’ incorrect ideas about genetics, particularly their inability to connect cells, properties of cells, division, inheritance, genes and chromosomes together into a big picture.The topics they interviewed students on are exactly the topics that I have found to be challenging for students entering college genetics courses (non majors and majors).The authors are from the UK and South Africa, and they do not make explicit whether the students in the study are from both countries.They administered a written test to 482 students (aged 14-16) who were “nearing the end of their compulsory education”, which includes instruction on genetics and cell biology.They then conducted focus group interviews of 3-4 students each.The written test included interpreting drawings, making drawings (of chromosomal content, for example), as well as identifying commonly used terms such as genes, DNA, alleles, and chromosomes.In the focus group interviews, the students were asked to describe the reasoning behind their answers.The paper contains many wonderful student quotes, as well as summaries of numbers/percents of students who, for example, could not distinguish between meiosis and mitosis (68%), and thought that the genetic content of each cell was different (80%).I will definitely use the themes described in my analysis of what college students continue to not understand in genetics.  
3.Modell, H, Michael, J, and Wenderoth, MP (2005). The Role of Uncovering Misconceptions. The American Biology Teacher 67(1): 20-26.(Thanks Mary Pat!)  
This paper focuses on the value of uncovering student misconceptions—ie, we know students have these problems, sometimes even after direct instruction on a topic, so why is it useful to know what they are?Uncovering the misconception allows the instructor to chart a course for the learners to change their mental models.The paper gives several examples of common misconceptions in physiology, and suggestions on how to proceed with helping the student figure out a new/correct model.For me the main value of this paper was the reminder that diagnosing the problem with a student’s mental model is critical in designing activities or other exercises that might induce a student to change their model (emphasis on *student*, since the student must do the changing!).                                                                                   
4.Quitadamo, IJ and Kurtz, MJ (2007).Learning to Improve: Using Writing to Increase Critical Thinking Performance in General Education Biology.CBE-Life Sciences Education 6: 140-154.  
This paper addressed whether structured group writing assignments as part of a laboratory course could improve the ability of general education students to think critically.The study was well controlled—there were 10 sections of students, all of whom used the same textbook and had the same essential lecture and lab format over a 9 week period (they did, however, have different instructors).In 4 of the sections, the students spent part of their lab time (1 hour per week) writing answers in groups of 3-4 to difficult questions on the material they had been studying in the course and lab.In the other 6 sections, the students were quizzed on their understanding of the same materials, and spent more time on the actual lab work itself (2 hours compared to 1 hour).The paper discusses how the writing assignments were designed and graded, and shows that students improved over time in their writing skills. To measure critical thinking skills, students were given the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) at the beginning and end of the course.Their main conclusion was that students in the writing sections significantly outperformed students in the non writing sections on all aspects of the CCTST.Interestingly, students who started with a higher score on the CCTST improved the most.I’d like to find out more about this test (only a few examples of the questions are given on the website for the test).The pros are that it is a validated instrument, and so can serve as a non content-related measure of critical thinking.On the other hand, a science-based critical thinking assessment might be more useful.  
5. Minderhout, V and Loertscher, J, (2007).Lecture-free Biochemistry. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 35(3):172-180. 
The authors describe the format and success of a biochemistry course taught at Seattle University, where they have been using lecture free techniques to teach biology for more than 10 years.The courses are small (less than 40 students), and have learning goals that address more than just content knowledge (for example, students should be able to analyze and interpret data and improve problem solving skills).The course revolves around POGIL activities.POGIL, Process oriented guided inquiry learning, is an NSF funded project that began in chemistry (The POGIL website: emphasizes group work and critical thinking, and although the students are guided toward content understanding, the process of getting there has value.[Some of the resources available on the POGIL site that others might find interesting can be found primarily under the Resources tab; for example a guide on writing and designing POGIL activities, and how to assess the effects of POGIL on your students (under “assessment handbook”)]. The authors report that more students in the POGIL classes receive grades of A,B,or C than in standard lecture classes.They also report student perceptions of this interactive course, using the SALG (Student assessment of Learning Gains) survey.Although some students still reject this technique, requesting more lecture time, most students self-report high understanding of biochemistry material as well as a gain in problem solving confidence. I already use some elements of POGIL in the activities I have designed both to teach genetics and developmental biology.I am considering using more of the POGIL approach for the design of in-class activities to address both my research questions.  

6. Blue, J, Tayor,B, Yarrison-Rice, J (2008). Full-Cycle Assessment of Critical Thinking in an Ethics and Science course.International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 2 (1): 1-23.  
This article reviews a definition of critical thinking, as well as several assessments and recent studies in which critical thinking levels and changes have been measured.Their study used a critical thinking rubric developed at The Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology at Washington State ( to measure change in students’ critical thinking skills over a semester-long class in ethics and science, in three successive years.A dozen faculty members at Miami University served as Assessment Fellows, whose goals were to create a definition of critical thinking, develop a means of assessing critical thinking, and then assist faculty in this assessment.The fellows agreed on a rubric that addressed seven primary traits of being able to think critically, ranking students on a scale of 1-4 on such items as being able to identify a problem, identify one’s own and others perspectives on the issue, use evidence to draw conclusions, etc.Students’ papers on case studies were evaluated over the course of the semester.Overall, students showed the most improvement from their 1st to 2nd assignments, but little improvement from the midterm to the end of the semester.Students show surprisingly little improvement overall.When students had access to the actual rubric, and when they knew they were supposed to be “thinking critically”, they showed more improvement.The authors found their results encouraging, suggesting that even a modest improvement is significant.They also suggest that the instructor has to be skilled in using a series of pedagogical techniques to aid the students in their critical thinking growth.I am interested in studying the rubric they used to assess critical thinking to see if it might be something I can modify for my courses. 

Can students really learn microbiology online?
Pre-SoTL Institute annotated bibliography:
What I discovered from this exercise is that there’s an enormous amount of information out there!  It’s a bit overwhelming to find the best and most appropriate resources to use.  But it sure is fun to look.  Current research is like an electronic version of what wandering through library stacks used to be. You never know what gems you will find.  

1.Alisauskas, Rita. 2007. “The love triangle”forging links to students using digital technology to deliver content in microbiology classes.Focus on Microbiology Education 13(2):13-15.    

Rita Alisauskas found that her online students earned higher grades on exams than did her traditional students (p. 13).She podcast her lectures, and made the online materials available to all students—both traditional and online.Her online students took more advantage of the material than did her traditional students, and scores of the online students were three to nine points higher than scores of the traditional students (p. 13).
This article got me to thinking about trying to compare the similarities and differences between online and traditional classroom delivery.I soon discovered that there’s lots of information available!  

2.Krawiec, Steven, Diane Salter, and Edwin Kay.2005.A “hybrid” bacteriology course:the professor’s design and expectations; the students’ performance and assessment (ED490001).Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education 6:8-13.Available from June 28, 2008. 
Krawiec, Salter, and Kay taught a basic bacteriology course both in the traditional format and as a hybrid.The hybrid form consisted of lecture content delivered online, an emphasis on online resources, and three weekly “face-to-face conversations to advance understanding.”No laboratory component was mentioned (for either format).
The authors compared the two courses over two years and did a statistical analysis of final examination results.Their data suggested no statistical difference in performance on the final examination.They also compared student evaluations, and found that students in the hybrid course “less strongly affirmed” than traditional students several measures:amount of work, positive interactions between student and instructor, learning a great deal, and recommending the course to another student.The evaluation protocol had 21 questions; on other measures, results were for the most part comparable.
The authors concluded that web-based instruction can have both advantages and limitations.The instructor matters, as evidenced by some of the less positive evaluations in the hybrid course, as compared to those from the traditional course.They suggested that clear directions on the one hand, and frequent feedback on the other might address the issues of dissatisfaction.
This paper provides a contradiction to Alisauskas and others, which may be useful.

3. Schoenfeld-Tacher, Regina, and Sherry McConnell.2001-04-00.An examination of the outcomes of a distance-delivered science course (ED452069).Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Seattle, WA, April 10-14, 2001).

The authors compared both the results and the interactions among students in an upper level histology course.The sample size was small (n = 44 students), but the course compared the same material delivered online and in the “traditional, on-campus format.”Both groups took a pre-test (results were indistinguishable).The online students outperformed their on-campus peers.
Schoenfeld-Tacher and McConnell also investigated the interactions between in the course and among students and faculty, describing them as learner-content, learner-learner, and learner-instructor.In examining their exam questions, they applied Bloom’s taxonomy.
They asked three questions: (1) concerning achievement between online and on campus students, (2) how does online delivery affect classroom interactions (in number and quality), and (3) how the instructor (or lack thereof) affects the number and type of questions in online group interactions.
I had not thought to use Bloom’s taxonomy in looking at questions asked between sections of my comparable classes.But it’s a good idea. 

4. Leger, Daniel.2008.PSYC 233 Aggression.Peer review of teaching project course portfolio.Available from:[Accessed June 28, 2008.] 

The author compared the exam performance of students in a traditional classroom and an online version of the same Psychology 233 (Aggression) class at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, for the fall semester 2007 (classroom delivery) and spring semester 2008 (online delivery).His work is documented in an Inquiry Portfolio on the Peer Review of Teaching Project website.He found that online students did better than the traditional classroom students. He examined the study habits of his students in terms of when they logged in to the lectures.He found that online students who did well also paced themselves well.Most listened to one lecture a day, except perhaps for review.Those who did poorly procrastinated, and listened to several lectures right before the exams.Even online students cram for exams.  
Leger makes the point that an online student can access a lecture several times whereas a classroom student has only one opportunity to see the “performance” of the instructor.   

Leger’s content (psychology) is a far cry from microbiology, but his comparison of access to content in a traditional classroom-delivered course and an online course speaks to my own experience in teaching both traditional and a hybrid class.In the traditional format, lectures are presented in advance of related laboratory exercises—access to content is controlled by the instructor.In an online class, however, students may not view the lectures before attending the related lab—access to content is controlled by the student.How that relates to student success in the class can be investigated.    

5.Johnson, Mary T.2008.Impact of online learning modules on medical student microbiology examination scores.Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education 9:25-29.

Johnson compared results from students at a large midwestern medical school where students taught medical microbiology at nine regional campuses are given a common final exam.Her study included “71 learners from two different campuses who were taught by the same instructor and were admitted to medical school with similar exemplary credentials” (p. 25).Her hypothesis that students who prepared for the final exam using online learning modules—web-based quizzes—scored higher on the final exam than traditional students using paper-based review materials was supported.
   Johnson has an extensive and useful bibliography (to be examined further).Her results also support two of the papers that I skimmed for this assignment(Dym 2002-2003, and Margulies and Ghent 2005).Although I have not (yet) looked at the time factor for my students, it is something to be considered.

Dym, Jeffrey.2002-2003.The effectiveness of weekly online computer quizzes in helping students learn content.Poster presented as part of the Visible Knowledge Project. Available from:[Accessed July 1, 2008.]

Results of one of the papers that I skimmed (Margulies and Ghent 2005) determined that for a medical microbiology class, students did better with 6-7 short exams than with three midterms and a final exam.Dym’s paper reiterated the theme.Although this information may not be too useful in examining the difference between online and on ground content delivery, it is something I am considering for teaching in a future semester for my class.As such, it’s information I need.

Margulies, Barry J., and Cynthia A. Ghent.2005.Alternative assessment strategy and its impact on student comprehension in an undergraduate microbiology course (ED49000).Microbiology Education 6:3-7.
Bealer, Jonathan and Virginia Bealer. (1996) Acting Out Immunity: A Simulation of a Complicated Concept.The American Biology Teacher 58(6): 360-62.
This article is the only one I’ve found that is similar to my own role-playing exercise.However, there are differences in approach between our two methods, and they did not include any data on the effectiveness of the exercise in the classroom.This is a good starting point for me to figure out what has been previously done and how to write-up my own exercise for other people to follow.
Aubusson et al. (1997) What Happens When Students Do Simulation-role-play in Science? Research in Science Education 27(4), 565-579.
This article looks at the use of role play to help students understand abstract scientific concepts at both the high school and college level.This is in direct contrast to many other educational role play exercises that I’ve found, where students pretend to be a specific scientist or advocate for a controversial scientific topic.Therefore, this paper matches much more closely to my own research goals.There are many references in this paper that will also be helpful to read.The introduction provides compelling arguments for the use of role play in education.However, much of the data presented in the article are anecdotal (comments from the teachers and students).Even data about follow-up exam questions are anecdotal, rather than statistical data.
McSharry, Gabrielle and Sam Jones. (2000) Role-play in science teaching and learning. School Science Review 82(298): 73-82.
While this article is primarily trying to encourage educators to attempt role-play in their classrooms, it provides excellent definitions of the different kinds of role-play exercises in scientific education, including seven specific categories (experiments, presentations games, simulation (moral/ethical role-play), analogy role-play, metaphorical role-play, and theater).According to these definitions, my exercise is an analogy role-play.It also discusses perceived difficulties in incorporating role-play in the classroom, which prevent educators from attempting it in the classroom.
DeNeve, Kristina M. and Mary J. Heppner. (1997) Role Play Simulations: The Assessment of an Active Learning Technique and Comparisons with Traditional Lectures. Innovative Higher Education 21(3): 231-246.
The authors used role play in an industrial psychology course to mimic a business (Board of Directors of a pizza company) and address problems associated with running that business on employee satisfaction and company success.Thus it is a quite different role play exercise than my own.I was originally very excited about this article, as I thought it would provide me with some direct methods for testing my hypothesis. However, this paper uses mostly student perception of learning (through use of surveys) rather than directly testing of learning outcomes using statistical data. It does provide a nice summary of effectiveness of “active learning” exercises in education at that time (1997), and indicate that while many of these studies did not truly test active learning compared to more traditional techniques, the few studies that did showed no real benefit (or detriment!) to the active learning exercises.While it may be limited in helpfulness as to the actual structure of the study, I am including it in my bibliography at this point as an example of how others have tried to answer a similar question to my own.
McCarthy, J. Patrick and Liam Anderson. (2000). Active Learning Techniques Versus Traditional Learning Styles: Two Experiments from History and Political Science. Innovative Higher Education 24(4): 279-294.
Unlike the article above, this paper does provide statistical data to show increased learning in students who performed active learning exercises.In the history class, students in certain discussion sections participated in role-play debates compared to other sections that heard a more traditional lecture on the same material.In the political science course, one section of the class used traditional lecture, while the other section used group work to cover the same material.They used the exam as their method of testing learning outcomes.This article also gives a great summary of role play effectiveness as described by other authors (some of which are already listed in this bibliography).
Chinnici et al. (2004) Students as “Human Chromosomes” in Role-Playing Mitosis and Meiosis. The American Biology Teacher 66(1): 35-39.
In this article, the authors analyzed whether students (non-biology majors) who participated in the role-play had different learning outcomes compared to their classmates that did not participate.They found that students who did the role-play answered a higher percentage of bonus exam questions correctly compared to their classmates (55.1% compared to 47.9%), and that these differences were statistically significant.
Firooznia, Fardad. (2007). The Story of the Calvin Cycle: Bringing Carbon Fixation to Life. The American Biology Teacher 69(6): 364-367.
This article is the most directly relevant to my own students that I have found so far, because it deals with students in an introductory biology class.The author analyzed the exam outcomes of students who used a musical play to be introduced to the Calvin Cycle (and then were subsequently reviewed using lecture), as compared with students who learned by more traditional lecture methods.He found that students introduced to the material via the musical performed significantly better on the exam (90% mean score compared to 71%).
The Role of the Teacher
•    Black, K. A.  “What to do When You Stop Lecturing:  Become a Guide and a Resource.” Journal of Chemical Education, 1993, 70 (2), 140-44.
•    McCreary, C. L., Golde, M. F., and Koeske, R.  “Peer Instruction in General Chemistry Laboratory:  Assessment of Student Learning.”  Journal of Chemical Education, 2006, 83 (5), 804-810.
The Balance of Power
•    Singham, M. . “Moving Away from the Authoritarian Classroom.”  Change, May/June 2005,  pp. 51-57.
•    Ludy, B. T.  “Setting Course Goals:  Privileges and Responsibilities.”  Teaching of Psychology, 2005, 32  (3), 146-149

The Function of Content
•    Bacon, D. R., and Stewart, K. A.  “How Fast Do Students Forget What They Learned in Consumer Behavior?  A Longitudinal Study.”  Journal of Marketing Education, 2006, 28, 181-192.
•    Finkel, D. L.  Teaching with Your Mouth Shut.  Portsmouth, NH:  Boynton/Cook, 2000.
•    Gregory, M., “Turning Water into Wine:  Giving Remote Texts Full Flavor for the Audience of Friends.  College Teaching, 2005, 53(3), 95-98.
•    Lewis, S. E., and Lewis, J. E.  “Departing from Lectures:  An Evaluation of a Peer-Led Guided Inquiry Alternative.”  Journal of Chemical Education, 2005, 82 (1), 135-139.

The Responsibility  for Learning
•    Grow, G. O.  “Teaching Learners to Be Self-Directed.”  Adult Education Quarterly, 1991, 41 (3), 125-149
•    Yamane, D.   “Course Preparation Assignments:  A Strategy for Creating Discussion-Based Courses.  Teaching Sociology, 2006,  36  (July), 236-248.

The Processes and Purposes of Evaluation
•    Deeter, L.  “Incorporating Student Centered Learning Techniques into an Introductory Plant Identification Course.”  NACTA Journal, 2003, (June), 47-52.
•    Edwards,  N. M. “ Student Self-Grading in Social Statistics.  College Teaching, 2007,  55 (2), 72-76.
•    Hiller, T. H., and Hietapelto, A. B.  “Contract Grading:  Encouraging Commitment to the Learning Process Through Voice in the Evaluation Process.”  Journal of Management Education, 2001, 25 (6), 660-684.
•    Strong, B., Davis, M., and Hawks, V.  “Self-Grading in Large General Education Classes:  A Case Study.”  College Teaching, 2004, 52 (2), 52-57.

Implementation Issues
•    Brookfield, S. D. Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass, 1995.    
•    Felder, R. M. and Brent, R.  “Navigating the Bumpy Road to Student-Centered Instruction.”  College Teaching, 1996, 44 (2), 43-47.     
•    Noel, T. W.  “Lessons from the Learning Classroom.”  Journal of Management Education, 2004, 28 (2), 188-206.    •    Paulson, D. R.  “Active Learning and Cooperative Learning in the Organic Chemistry Lecture Class.”  Journal of Chemical Education, 1999, 76 (8), 1136-1140.    
•    Spence, L. D.  “The Case Against Teaching.”  Change, 2001, 33 (6), 11-19.    
•    Whetten, D. A. “Principles of Effective Course Design:  What I Wish I had Known about Learner-Centered Teaching 30 Years Ago.”  Journal of Management Education, 2007, 31, 339-357.
These are several references I read and annotated before the SoTL Institute. I have highlighted in red major points of each.
I have for a long time been concerned about the level of conceptual change that occurs in students during my microbiology classes. It has seemed to me that, while students may be good at memorising information, they do not retain this well. Nor have they been particularly good at applying their knowledge to new problems after finishing my courses. Thus, I want my students to increase their level of understanding about microbiology as a science, so that they can use their knowledge profitably later on in their lives. To achieve this I am moving my lecture classes more to an enquiry-based learning approach. To be precise I should say to a “not didactic lecturing approach” as I am incorporating a range of active learning activities to engender more student-centred learning via a constructivist approach. From my initial learning about pedagogy I realise that I need to think about several issues. It is these issues that I have chosen to collate into my annotated bibliography to focus my thinking.
What are the alternatives to didactic teaching?
Udovic, D., Morris, D., Dickman, A., Postlethwait, J. and Wetherwax, P., 2002. Workshop biology: demonstrating the effectiveness of active learning in an introductory biology course. Bioscience 52, 272 – 81.
This paper was one of the first that I read when starting to reconsider how I might change my teaching in order to improve student learning outcomes. What I get from this paper is the realisation that large science classes are not necessarily a barrier to student-centred active learning. Secondly, it gives me some ideas to consider for my own classes (for example challenging misconceptions, introducing students to thinking in a scientific manner). Thirdly, it uses quantitative data such as comparisons of pre- and post-testing of biology concepts in classes taught in the workshop format versus classes taught didactically. These are data that I could recognise despite them being in a fundamentally different discipline. Concomitantly, the paper introduced me to an alternative form of data: qualitative data that examined student reflections on their own learning. And finally, they demonstrated that the workshop biology approach of modelling the scientific method produced better learning outcomes for students than did didactic lecturing. I was sold.
Powell, L., 2004. NRES: Wildlife Ecology and Management. Viewed on July 1 at
Course portfolios such as Larkin Powell’s are a good way to get ideas on how teachers review their courses and how they reflect on what they learn about how their students learn. As it was easy for me to associate with the subject matter, I could judge this portfolio more easily than if it concerned the pedagogy of a different discipline. In this sense the discipline does matter, for I could compare my ideas of what students should be able to achieve in scientific learning with Powell’s. There is a clear picture of the class, its aims and syllabus, who was in it, and how the students were assessed, together with outcomes of the teaching and learning activities. Powell provides examples of assessment and of student responses to the assessment along with his comments. The course portfolio enables more examples of student achievement than is likely to be possible in a journal article. I have been evaluating student responses to exams in my classes. In particular I have looked at the level of thinking required by assessment in order to see if a sequential increase in how students perform occurs.Powell found that whether or not students had the prerequisite subject significantly affected student achievement in his course. This is clear evidence of the role of prior learning and its impact on student learning and is further recognition of the students as individuals.
Evaluating learning
Nazario, G., Burrowes, P.A. and Rodriguez, J, 2002. Persisting misconceptions: using pre- and post-testing to identify biological misconceptions. J. College Science Teaching 31, 292 – 6.
This paper is interesting for its use of pre- and post- testing to identify conceptual misconceptions that students have. While pre- and post-testing is a well known means for determining the effectiveness of teaching and learning activities, this paper took a further step. Nazario etal (2002) developed a misconception index to find out which concepts were difficult for students to get correctly. Persistent misconceptions are similar in nature to the problem of troublesome knowledge as described by Perkins (1999). The misconception index identified the most frequent incorrect answer in a multiple choice question and thus gives the teacher an idea of where to spend more time and effort. I have used analysis of MCQ answers in my courses, but not so much to identify misconceptions, but rather to identify effective questions. Thus, this paper has provided me with another tool to use in analysing student learning outcomes. However, from my perspective there was one misconception in which I thought that the students were hard done by!
Perkins, D., 1999. The Many Faces of Constructivism. Educational Leadership 57(3): 6 – 11
Student approaches to learning
Minbashian, A., Huon, G.F. and Bird, K.D., 2004. Approaches to studying and academic performance in short-essay exams. Higher Education 47: 161–176, 2004.
Minbashian etal (2004) examined the effect of the approach that students took to learning (deep or surface) in relation to their performance in short-essay exams that required either reproduction of knowledge or understanding. They controlled for student motivation and intelligence and found that the quality of student answers (understanding) increased with a deep approach to learning, but the detail in the answers was maximal with a moderate deep approach and declined with high levels of deep approach. Thus, student exam marks were not improved with a high level of a deep approach to learning, because although the conceptual quality was good, the level of detail was not. I found this paper interesting because of the methods used: learning, motivation and intelligence surveys and analysis of the quality of student answers with the SOLO taxonomy (described in Biggs, 2003 – which incidentally I think is a very well written text for learning the pedagogy of higher education). It addresses one of the concerns that I have with how I am changing my teaching practice, and that is, does a constructivist approach to learning result in better learning outcomes. Minbashian etal (2004) could not demonstrate a clear relationship and concluded that this could have been because of the nature of the assessment, which was 4 short essays in 60 minutes. I would agree with them, that time constraints on the students may well have led those taking a deep approach to sacrifice detail in order to demonstrate their understanding. To date, I have used the Learning and Study Questionnaire (ETL Project, 2002) to encourage students to think about their approach to learning, but have found it difficult to use quantitatively because of small class sizes. Also, I have used the SOLO taxonomy to guide the construction of exam questions to require higher cognitive levels from students, but could now start to use it to analyse student responses. Minbashian et al (2004) give a framework for considering these questions and some of the potentially confounding influences.
Biggs, J., 2003. Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 2nd edition The Society for Research into Higher education and Open University Press Maidenhead, UK 309pp.
ETL Project, 2002. Learning and Study Questionnaire. Economic and Social Research Council Teaching and Learning Research Programme. Viewed 09/02/05
Content versus process?
Sweller, J., 1993. Some cognitive processes and their consequences for the organisation and presentation of information. Australian Journal of Psychology 45, 1 - 8.
This paper by Sweller (1993) is my first attempt at grappling with the effects of enquiry-based learning on the difficulty for students to learn the discipline whilst concomitantly learning how to think about the discipline. Sweller describes cognitive load theory wherein if the total cognitive load (TCL) of a lesson is too high, then little learning may result. This occurs because, whereas the long term memory is very large, the human working memory is relatively small. Thus we have limited processing capacity to manage new material and we learn by developing schema of how to think in the discipline and by automating actions. Both are the domain of the long term memory. The use of schema and automation underpin the difference between the expert and the novice. TCL is made up of the intrinsic cognitive load (ICL), which is defined by the inherent level of difficulty of the subject, plus the extrinsic cognitive load (ECL)determined by the structure of how the material is presented. Little can be done to decrease the ICL where several pieces of information must be integrated in order to achieve a learning outcome. However, structuring a lesson such that most processing capacity can be directed to learning the content and away from interpreting it will decrease the ECL. Sweller (1993) suggests using goal-free problems, to prevent students from trying to work backwards from the goal, because although this is efficient, it has a high cognitive demand. Thus students focus on the content and learn schema for long term memory. Secondly, using worked examples, especially if they avoid splitting student attention between different sources of information and lack redundant information. So what I have taken from this is a starting appreciation of what students have to do mentally in order to learn something. And as I am emphasising understanding of how to think, then clearly developing appropriate learning structures becomes vitally important and my initial impulse to change all is more sober and reflective.
1.Husic D,Navigating Through Interdisciplinary Pitfalls and Pathways to SuccessCUR Quarterly 26(4): 169-176, 2006.
This article discusses several merits and caveats of interdisciplinary courses taught by a cohort of faculty from disparate disciplines such as biology and geology.Since I recently began team teaching a watershed course with a psychology colleague I was already aware of some of the pitfalls of team-taught courses such as varied teaching styles among faculty within and across disciplines.One of the merits of interdisciplinary team-taught courses mentioned in the paper is that it allows students to see their own faculty disagreeing on many hot button issues and topics. Students see firsthand that faculty can even disagree vehemently at times over issues.The article also pointed out the benefits of interdisciplinary work at a liberal arts college such as my own such as honing a student’s critical thinking skills and communicating effectively across traditional disciplinary boundaries.The barriers of interdisciplinary taught courses was most useful to me as it suggested ways to overcome department needs that many times trumps several faculty from being able to team teach interdisciplinary courses.
2.Jordon. R, Nudging Academic Science into the Public Sphere Academe 93(3): 52-54, 2007.
I found this article via one of my ERIC searches a great read.The author discusses the merits of faculty working with a community partner(s) in addressing a research problem.The paper puts forth the claim that working with a community partner on a research matter does not represent a diminution of one’s scholarship and described several examples.I found this article inspiring in that as part of my interdisciplinary studies, I have recently begun a student-based stream assessment study with a community partner, the Valley Creek Restoration Partnership.Equally inspiring was the author’s conviction that one need not be an expert in a field to have a meaningful relationship with a community partner.
3.Woltermade CJ & Blewett, W, Design, Implementation, and Assessment of an Undergraduate Inteterdisciplinary Watershed Research Laboratory Journal of Geoscience Education 50(4) 372-379, 2002.
The article described a cohort of laboratory field courses students take that are centered on watershed studies.The laboratory courses used a local watershed to provide intensive undergraduate field training in the collection and analysis of environmental data.The courses are taught by faculty in several disciplines including Geology, Biology and Education.The intent of these interdisciplinary courses is to further student investigations in a wide variety of courses across the curriculum.One thing that I found informative is that interdisciplinary studies of this magnitude almost always require some type of external funding.The authors did receive funds from an NSF Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) grant they were awarded to pilot their project. We recently applied for an NSF CCLI grant to sustain our interdisciplinary watershed studies at Cabrini College. The article has given me insight into improving our chances of success if our grant gets rejected such as having an external advisory board to critically review and assess the various interdisciplinary courses on an annual or semi-annual basis.
4.Gill S, Riebling BJ, & Theophano J,Multidisciplinary Lenses on Nature Interdisciplinary Environmental Review 9(1) 1-9, 2007.
The article stresses the need for a multidisciplinary discussion that reflects rigorous environmental science and current views from the humanities and social sciences.The authors point out that presently the sciences have very little dialog with their counterparts in non-science related disciplines.It is argued that without a meaningful conversation between the sciences and the social sciences, it will be exceedingly difficult if not impossible to solve many of the environmental problems currently inflicting humanity. The authors then proceed to give several good examples to support this claim.The authors do point out a difficulty withenvironmental multidisciplinary studies in that each discipline, whether it be in the humanities or the biological sciences, tend to view their discipline as the “keystone” or most important discipline in solving environmental problems.Hence, multidisciplinary work between colleagues in different disciplines can become divisive as faculty view their own work as the most important part of the multidisciplinary team. The authors then go on using several examples of multidisciplinary teams genuinely collaborating with one another and show how the collaborative effort led to a far deeper understanding of a particular area of research.As I move forward with other colleagues on my campus in different disciplines working on both local and global watershed-related issues, I found this article extremely informative. As a team, it will be important to stress the need for genuine collaboration and that each member of the team’s work is on equal footing with all other team members in order to maximize our chances that the work will lead to something both meaningful and powerfull.
5.Farrel TA & Quiros N, An Academic Model for Interdisciplinary Environmental Education and Problem Solving in Costa Rica: A Case Study of the School for Field Studies Interdisciplinary Environmental Review 7(1) 37-45, 2005.
This paper describes interdisciplinary models of environmental studies using Costa Rica as a case study.Students enroll in one of several environmental courses based in Costa Rica and involve themselves in solving one of several ecological problems in Costa Rica such as water privatization, sustaining biodiversity, preserving forest ecosystems and the pros & cons of ecotourism.The paper points out some of the barriers of these types of study abroad interdisciplinary courses such as insuring and convincing a college’s administration that the study abroad course will be academically rigorous.As I have very recently begun to plan interdisciplinary studies on watershed issues in El Salvador with students, I found this paper informative.Future endeavors on El Salvador water issues stems directly from a trip I took to El Salvador with several of my colleagues from various disciplines this past May and seeing first hand some of the water issues that affect a large population of the Salvadoran people.After talking to several of my colleagues, they agree that it would be great if we could like a local watershed course to a watershed course that has a global dimension such as studies in El Salvador.A watershed course based around El Salvador water issues also fits the new Core Curriculum at Cabrini College where there is an expectation that students gain a greater understanding of global issues.
Rao, S.P., Collins, H.L., and DiCarlo, S.E. (2002) Collaborative testing enhanes student learning. Advances in Physiology Education, 26(1):37-41.
Payne, S.L., Flynn, J., and Whitfield, J.M. (2008) Capstone Business Course Assessment: Exploring Student Readiness Perspectives. Journal of Education for Business. Jan/Feb.141-146.
Buckner, B., Beck, J., Browning, K., Fritz, A., Grantham, L., Hoxha, E., Kamvar, Z., Lough, A., Nikolova, O., Schnable, P. S., Scanlon, M. J., and Janick-Buckner, D. (2007). Involving undergraduates in the annotation and analysis of global gene expression studies: creation of a maize shoot apical meristem expression database. Genetics 176, 741-747.
Chaplin, S. B., Manske, J. M., and Cruise, J. L. (1998). Introducing Freshmen To Investigative Research--A Course for Biology Majors at Minnesota's University of St. Thomas. Journal of College Science Teaching 27, 347-350.
French, D. P., and Russell, C. P. (2006). Improving student attitudes toward biology. In: Handbook of College Science Teaching, eds. J. J. Mintzes and W. H. Leonard, Arlington, VA: NSTApress, 15-23.
Luckie, D. B., Maleszewski, J. J., Loznak, S. D., and Krha, M. (2004). Infusion of Collaborative Inquiry throughout a Biology Curriculum Increases Student Learning: a Four-year Study of "Teams and Streams". Advances in Physiology Education 287, 199-209.
Mallow, J. V. (2006). Science anxiety: research and action. In: Handbook of College Science Teaching, eds. J. J. Mintzes and W. H. Leonard, Arlington, VA: NSTApress, 3-14.
Pukkila, P.J. (2004). Introducing student Inquiry in Large introductory genetics classes.  Genetics 166, 11-18.
Sleister, H. M. (2007). Isolation and characterization of Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutants defective in chromosome transmission in an undergraduate genetics research course.  Genetics 177, 677-688.
Stiller, J. W., and Coggins, T. C. (2006). Teaching Molecular Biological Techniques in a Research Content. American Biology Teacher 68, 36-42.
Sundberg, M.D. (2002). Assessing student learning. Cell Biology Education 1, 11-15.
Trosset, C., Lopatto, D., and Elgin, S. (2008).  Implementation and assessment of course-embedded undergraduate research experiences: some explorations. In: Creating Effective Undergraduate Research Programs in Science: The Transformation from Student to Scientist, eds. R. Taraban and R. L. Blanton, New York: Teachers College Press, 33-49.
Annotated References
Buckner, B., Beck, J., Browning, K., Fritz, A., Grantham, L., Hoxha, E., Kamvar, Z., Lough, A., Nikolova, O., Schnable, P. S., Scanlon, M. J., and Janick-Buckner, D. (2007). Involving undergraduates in the annotation and analysis of global gene expression studies: creation of a maize shoot apical meristem expression database. Genetics 176, 741-747.
In this article the authors describe a research project involving undergraduates.  While this research is not itself a course, the research project itself has similarities with the research (annotation of existing genomic data) that I plan on incorporating into my genetics course.  The article describes annotation of microarray data generated by collaborators at a large university.  In addition to addressing specific questions, the goal of the research is ultimately presentation to the research community, giving students a sense of their participation in the progress of science.  Some of the training for the work occurs in lower level biology courses.  The outcomes in this article are anecdotal, with no assessment.
Chaplin, S. B., Manske, J. M., and Cruise, J. L. (1998). Introducing Freshmen To Investigative Research--A Course for Biology Majors at Minnesota's University of St. Thomas. Journal of College Science Teaching 27, 347-350.
This article describes a research course directed at first to second year biology students.  The authors reiterate some of the benefits of students participating in research (as attributed to an article by J.R. Brandenberger – a reference I have been unable to locate) and address the importance of learning by doing.  They note that cookbook labs teach techniques but students do not learn the process of science through these exercises.  The article also points to the misconception that research is only something in which the top students are able to participate; the authors’ class suggests otherwise.  This is an argument that I think is important for the incorporation of research in my genetics class, as well as my overall philosophy of teaching and learning.  Results indicate that students that complete the course are more likely to stay in the major and demonstrate a 4% attrition rate as compared to a 33% for students who have not taken the course.  This article is of relevance to my project as I intend to integrate research into a 200-level course that has second year students.  Additionally, this article cites some interesting references that I did not pick up in my initial searches.
French, D. P., and Russell, C. P. (2006). Improving student attitudes toward biology. In: Handbook of College Science Teaching, eds. J. J. Mintzes and W. H. Leonard, Arlington, VA: NSTApress, 15-23.
This chapter describes some changes made to an introductory biology sequence with the major change being in the way the courses are taught, switching from lecture to more active learning based on scenarios (real world context).  Student attitudes were surveyed prior to the change in course structure and then in the new course.  The surveys were given at the beginning and end of the semester so that change in attitude could be assessed.  Results were analyzed with respect to gender and to ACT composite scores.  The data demonstrate that the active learning generally resulted in a more positive attitude towards biology. An appendix contains their “Biology Attitude Scale”.

Luckie, D. B., Maleszewski, J. J., Loznak, S. D., and Krha, M. (2004). Infusion of Collaborative Inquiry throughout a Biology Curriculum Increases Student Learning: a Four-year Study of "Teams and Streams". Advances in Physiology Education 287, 199-209.
The authors describe an alternative to traditional labs in introductory classes for physiology majors.  They note that students do not experience the processes of science in the traditional lab setting.  They also suggest that students are turned off by the experience of labs that are of the ‘cookbook’ variety.  By making their labs inquiry based, with students developing a research question, designing, and conducting the experiments, the authors demonstrate that they have increased the cognitive level of the learning (based on Bloom’s taxonomy) from knowledge to application, analysis and synthesis.  They balanced “cookbook” labs to learn techniques with the inquiry labs, but started the inquiry part very early in the semester. Initially that authors felt that the experience might be too demanding for the students, however were surprised to find that the students rose to the challenge.  Interestingly, they found that the students participating in these labs showed an increase in performance on content exams in addition to qualitative results reflecting an increase in the positive comments on student feedback forms.  Once the authors established the new inquiry lab format, they returned to the traditional format for a semester, and have been using the new inquiry format since.  They believe that this makes their assessment of the inquiry format much stronger, and I tend to agree. The authors give a thorough curricular design and assessment strategy for both formats for easy comparison.  While my project will be different, as I will be giving them the research problem and not requiring them to initiate the development of their own research question, this is a similar model to what I hope to implement.  On a final note, the authors point out that traditional labs can be very time consuming for the professor, with much work before and after the lab that does not necessarily make for increased learning, and may be a lost opportunity for student learning.  They constantly quote their mantra “less teaching, more learning”.
Mallow, J. V. (2006). Science anxiety: research and action. In: Handbook of College Science Teaching, eds. J. J. Mintzes and W. H. Leonard, Arlington, VA: NSTApress, 3-14.
This chapter describes common reasons for science anxiety, research that has been conducted on this anxiety, as well as some potential ways that this anxiety could be lifted.  Of the 9 practices that are listed, the one that affects my project most directly would be (3) Theme-based curricula as the introduction of a research project will in theory provide a unifying theme to the course.
Pukkila, P.J. (2004). Introducing student Inquiry in Large introductory genetics classes.  Genetics 166, 11-18.
In this article Pukkila describes ways in which inquiry can be introduced into an introductory genetics class.  She notes that although the textbooks include the key experiments in genetics, students cannot distinguish “between the conclusion and the methods used to reach the conclusion”, and stresses the importance on students moving to evaluation of evidence rather than accepting the conclusions of others.  Although one way to do this would be to base the class on reading the primary literature, Pukkila suggests a more “incremental” mode of changing the course – incorporating small units of inquiry.  She points out the importance of student preparation, and achieves this by picking a figure from the reading and assigning questions based on that figure.  In class work involves 1-2 collaborative discussions per meeting. Additionally she has students submit questions about the reading as the basis of discussion, or has the students analyze experimental design (such as discussing what would happen if one aspect of the experiment was changed). Data collected was quantitative (class evaluations, grades – though theses did not change) and qualitative in nature.

Sleister, H. M. (2007). Isolation and characterization of Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutants defective in chromosome transmission in an undergraduate genetics research course.  Genetics 177, 677-688.
In this article, Sleister describes an upper level genetics research course designed to give students a “real” research experience. The project covered both classical and molecular genetics activities, providing a broad exposure to different areas of genetics even thought the project was limited to a single model organism.  Assessment demonstrated that when compared to a traditional lab experience, students felt that the research lab experience had: “helped them better understand genetic concepts and methods”, “helped them make connections between different concepts/experiments”, and that the “technical skills are/will be valuable in further studies…or in a future career”.  Sleister makes the point that in both types of labs the students would learn “how to perform [a] method” but in the research lab the students “gain first-hand experience with the when and why to apply a particular method”.  One aspect of the article that I really like is a table she provides that lists the major course objectives and ties each objective to a specific activity or assignment that is part of the research project.  While this article describes a research project carried out in an upper-level course (the course has a prerequisite of an introductory genetics course), it has many similarities to what I would like to do in my genetics course.

Stiller, J. W., and Coggins, T. C. (2006). Teaching Molecular Biological Techniques in a Research Content. American Biology Teacher 68, 36-42.
This article describes a semester long project in a research context that uses many of the molecular biology techniques common in research.  The authors address the benefit of such an approach as it is hypothesis driven and connects the techniques to the reason for their use and the “assumptions implicit in their use”.  The authors also indicate that the techniques can be coupled or “strung together” leading to an understanding of how the techniques might be used to solve a problem. They discuss the benefits of unexpected results, which are often lacking in the “canned” laboratory exercises, as either thought provoking or in need of trouble-shooting. The article thoroughly describes the steps involved in the project that the authors used in their project.  Of particular interest is the indication that this project was interspersed with “traditional labs” during the lulls in project activity.  The article addresses many of the advantages that I hope that a research-based lab would present to the students.

Sundberg, M.D. (2002). Assessing student learning. Cell Biology Education 1, 11-15.
In this essay Sundberg describes how the biological educational literature has changed from descriptive (new techniques, ideas and their implementation) to assessing student learning.  He points out that the point of assessment is to “determine the impact of instruction on improving student learning”.  He raises the question of whether or not it is important to have a control and what that control might look like.  Importantly, this essay describes some of the major quantitative and qualitative techniques for assessment and discusses advantages and disadvantages for each.  This provides a good starting point for thinking about how I might go about assessing student learning in my class as I study the use of research in the lab experience.
Trosset, C., Lopatto, D., and Elgin, S. (2008).  Implementation and assessment of course-embedded undergraduate research experiences: some explorations. In: Creating Effective Undergraduate Research Programs in Science: The Transformation from Student to Scientist, eds. R. Taraban and R. L. Blanton, New York: Teachers College Press, 33-49.
This chapter describes three courses in which research has been embedded into the lab experience.  The authors list the results of a poll in which faculty were asked what attributes an undergraduate research experience should have, providing a guide for shaping the experience student should have in a course incorporating research.  The authors also point out the difficulties inherent in the incorporation of research into courses.  These include the unpredictable nature of research, the difficulties in mentoring the large number of students in the course, and the necessity of assigning grades and difficulties in doing so.  Assessment was carried out and compared to a similar assessment of students at participated in summer research experiences.
I want to know whether students of any ethnicity/gender will be convinced to consider a research career through reading humanizing stories of various scientists (also of various ethnicity/gender). I also want to find evidence of whether or not women and minorities are under-represented in scientific research careers. My assumption has been that they are under-represented but I want more specific evidence. I also want to know what others had done in an attempt to show students that research is an option for them. Has anyone previously measured the effect of popular literature on career choice? What other strategies have been attempted?
1.    National Science Foundation. (2007). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: NSF 07-315. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation ( Contains the most recent statistics regarding education and employment of various groups of people in science and engineering. The inequity is largest at the employed doctoral degree level. Seventy-five percent of such scientists are white while black and Hispanic scientists make up just 3.5% and 3% respectively. While over half of undergraduate biologists are women there are twice as many males employed as faculty in every Carnegie classification.
2.    Porta, Angela R. (2002). Using Diversity Among Biomedical Scientists as a Teaching Tool. The American Biology Teacher 64 (3): 176-182. This was a clever idea in which students in a Cell Physiology class at Kean University designed a questionnaire and were assigned various scientists that they requested to complete the questionnaire. Then each student presented his/her assigned scientist’s responses to the class. This introduced the concept of diversity in scientific research and made the students realize that anyone can do science and not just white men in lab coats. This article also talked about the importance of role models.
3.    Luckenbill-Edds, Louise. (2002). The Educational Pipeline for Women in Biology. Bioscience 52 (6): 513-521. This paper looks at the progress that women have made in biology with regard to choice of major and advanced schooling and employment. They have reached parity in choosing a major but not in advanced schooling and employment. The author suggests that there may need to be a change in the culture of science in order to be more inclusive. The weed-out model is said to discourage both males and females.
4.    Fallon, Diane. (2003). Accepting, Embracing and Striving: Describing Student Responses to Diversity Issues. CASTL Program, Carnegie Foundation ( This was a project from an English professor in a community college. She tried an activity to stimulate students to broaden their views on diversity and found that sometimes this was only a temporary change and they then fell back on more simplistic views. This cautions me to follow-up on students after the semester in which I gather data. When I ask them about their perceptions of diversity in science this may be a temporary opinion and may not impact their career choices in the long term.
5.    Salmela-Aro, Katariina and Jari-Erik Nurmi. (2007). Self-esteem during university studies predicts career characteristics 10 years later. Journal of Vocational Behavior 70: 463-477. This Finnish study looked at over 200 students and determined their level of self-esteem and correlated this with job satisfaction and success. Those with higher self-esteem had a more stable and successful career (at least over the short term of the study). While I could find nothing about why students make the choice to pursue scientific research I have seen info regarding the importance of role models. I can imagine that having role models more like oneself would increase confidence and self-esteem and lead to increased success. I may want to include questions to assess students’ self-esteem before and after reading the popular scientific literature.
1. Hurd, D.D., (2008). A Microcosm of the Biomedical Research Experience for Upper-level Undergraduates. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 7(2), 210-219.

This article describes the design of an upper-level cell biology laboratory that integrates real-life scientific research in a flexible, inquiry-driven format using C. elegans as the model system. Entry and exit questionnaires revealed that students gained a better understanding of some, though not all, of the key concepts, terms, and experimental approaches used in cell biological investigation using C. elegans. I chose this article for several reasons: 1) The author is trying to accomplish something similar to what I am trying to accomplish, which is to furnish students with a real research experience within the context of a class, so it was informative to read the assessments he used to measure student gains as well as the approaches he used to manage the course and students; and 2) Unlike my course, Hurd’s course does not include a lecture component, so I think I can build on his findings by determining if the skills students learn in the lecture component of my course enable them to succeed in the laboratory component.

2. Foote, L.C., & FitzPatrick, K.A. (2004). Introduction to Biological Investigations: A First-Year Experience in Experimental Design and Scientific Communication. Journal of College Science Teaching, 34(3), 35-40.

This article deals with the implementation and assessment of a freshman level course that exposes students to scientific investigation through active learning. The course assessments suggest that students feel they learned how to design experiments and write scientifically. I picked this article because I liked the different ways in which the authors assessed the impact of the course (evaluation surveys, narrative surveys, analysis of student writing portfolios). I think these techniques will be helpful in my efforts to assess the effectiveness of my own course, especially when incorporating qualitative assessment. I wish the authors had done quantitative assessments, so I’m still looking around for ways to do that.

3. Leger, D.W. (2005). Course portfolio for Biopsychology: Psychology/Biological Science 373. Retrieved July 2, 2009, from Peer Review of Teaching Project Website:

I found this course portfolio interesting because the author is trying to measure critical thinking gains in his students, which is something that I want to do. While I think that I need to keep looking for more resources on how to measure this student skill (this has been very challenging so far), at least this portfolio gave me an idea of how an individual went about doing this in a course. It showed me that maybe I can design my own test of critical thinking skills instead of finding one in the literature.

4. Coding Data SoTL Kit (2009). Retrieved July 2, 2009, from the Visible Knowledge Project Website:
(It wasn’t clear to me who compiled the resources on this page).

I think this is a great resource for learning how to analyze student assignments to gauge if their analytical and critical thinking skills (or any other skills, for that matter) are improving during the semester. I will definitely try these tools on student assignments from the course I wish to assess.

5. Mintzes, J.J., Wandersee, J.H., & Novak, J.D.  (2001). Assessing understanding in biology. Journal of Biological Education, 35(3), 118-124.

This was a very interesting review article, which focused on different methods to assess student understanding, mainly in a formative fashion. These methods included concept maps, V maps, and portfolio assessments. This article reinforced something I found in teaching my upper-level course: that students learn to integrate complicated concepts and to see the “big picture” only after repetition of certain tasks and types of assignments. I definitely think I will be using some of the assessments mentioned in this article, particularly the V maps.
Rivard, L. P. 1994. A review of writing to learn in science: Implications for practice and research. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 31: 969 - 983. (Rivard, 1994) 

This review suggests that writing can enhance science learning, but that this outcome is not automatic. In fact, Howard (1988) states that science tends to emphasize writing as “communication” but often does not take advantage of writing as “articulation” (what he has called “thinking on paper”). Science teachers should therefore tailor tasks to attain meaningful curricular goals, help learners attain the necessary metacognitive knowledge, and embrace the view of scientific literacy as deep conceptual understandings rather than encyclopedic knowledge (Rutherford & Ahlgren, 1989). Rivard calls for carefully designed studies, both qualitative and quantitative, to provide data from a variety of perspectives, as well as research to generalize the findings across a variety of science classrooms and to elucidate principles for guiding effective teacher use of writing-to-learn strategies.
Klein, P. D. 1999. Reopening inquiry into cognitive processes in writing-to-learn. Educational Psychology Review 11: 203-270. (Klein, 1999) 

Writing produces generally positive, but inconsistent, effects on learning. The reasons for this inconsistency are unknown. This review examines four hypotheses about writing-to-learn: Writers spontaneously generate knowledge "at the point of utterance" (Britton, 1980/1982); writers externalize ideas in text, then reread them to generate new inferences (Young and Sullivan, 1984); writers use genre structures to organize relationships among elements of text, and thereby among elements of knowledge (Newell, 1984); and writers set rhetorical goals, then solve content problems to achieve these goals (Bereiter and Scardamalia, 1987; Flower and Hayes, 1980a). These four hypotheses invoke different aspects of writing, and so are mutually compatible. The genre hypothesis has been supported by empirical research; the other three hypotheses have been tentatively supported by research concerning writing-to-learn, or indirectly supported by other research concerning learning or writing. Further investigation is needed concerning: the empirical validity of the four hypotheses and interactions among the processes that they identify; the declarative and procedural knowledge that underpins writing-to-learn; and the educational effectiveness of applying cognitive strategy instruction to learning through writing.
Yeoman, Kay H. and Barbara Zamorski.  2008.  Investigating the Impact on Skill Development of an Undergraduate Scientific Research Skills Course.  Bioscience Education eJournal 11 (Yeoman & Zamorski, 2008) 

This paper used a pre- and post-course survey of students’ self assessments about their knowledge and skills related to scientific research.  The survey asked questions (using a likert scale) ranging from “I know how to find research papers” to “I know how to write a scientific paper.” Not surprisingly, students who took the course on research methods significantly improved their understanding of the research process.  What I found most interesting about this paper was the increase in students’ self assessment for the question “I know how to write scientifically.”  As far as I can tell, students spent only one class period on scientific writing, yet their confidence at the end of their course in their abilities to write a scientific paper contradict what I have read in other papers.  Kardash (2000), for example, found that when students participated in undergraduate research, their confidence in writing a scientific paper still remained very low.  My guess is that “knowing how” to write a scientific paper does not mean student can necessarily do it well.   
Rudd, James A., Thomas J. Greenbowe, Brian M. Hand. 2007.  Using the Science Writing Heuristic To Improve Students’ Understanding of General Equilibrium.  Journal of Chemical Education 84 (12) (Rudd, Greenbowe, & Hand, 2007) 

The Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) is an alternate format to the traditional format of chemistry lab reports (Title; Purpose; Outline of Procedure; Data and Observations; Balanced Equations; and Calculations, Graphs, and Discussion sections).  The SWH format promotes enquiry-based learning, and consisted of Beginning Questions or Ideas; Tests and Procedures; Observations, Claims, Evidence; and Reflection sections.  This study examined how well students performed on multiple-choice midterm questions (on the topic of equilibrium) based on what they learned in a lab using the traditional format vs the SWH format.  Interestingly, although the SWH students had better conceptual understanding of equilibrium, the traditional group was much better at writing an acceptable equilibrium equation.  This is not surprising, given that students learn best from high-quality practice of skills and the study of models (van Gelder, 2000).  
Locke, David. Science as Writing. : Yale UP, 1992.(Locke, 1992) 

The principle argument of the chemist David Locke’s book is that "every scientific text must be read, that it is writing, not some privileged verbal shorthand that conveys a pure and unvarnished scientific truth" (ix). Within this text, he looks at the history of science writing and its development and through this examination problematizes the use of language in scientific discourse. His argument implies a need for critical attention to the rhetorical uses of language in scientific literature and the ways in which this language creates accepted knowledge.
Klymkowsky, M. and Garvin-Doxas, K. "Recognizing Student Misconceptions Through Ed's
Tools and the Biology Concept Inventory", PLoS Biology, 6(1): 2008.

This outstanding research article defines what a concept inventory is and describes how
to build one, and implement it in a large lecture classroom in order to uncover student
misconceptions.  In addition, this article discusses a software tool called "Ed's Tools"
which can be used to assess student responses to open-ended questions.  This software
provides a useful tool for collecting and analyzing students' understanding of concepts
and the language they use to describe them.  This software is freely available to all
educators.  The methodology described in this article is extremely relevant to my

Smith, M., Wood, W., and Knight, J. "The Genetics Concept Assessment: A New Concept
Inventory for Gauging Student Understanding of Genetics", CBE Life Science Education,
7(4): 422-430, 2008.

This research article provides an excellent model for my work by providing a rigorous
framework for a large-scale assessment of student understanding of basic concepts in
genetics.  The authors first establish a series of learning objectives and then use the
expertise of genetics professionals to construct the questions that form the Genetics
Concept Assessment (GCA).  Another interesting aspect of this work is that the assessment
was carried out over five different university campuses in order to increase the student
sample size and promote collaboration among instructors with different teaching
Although this investigation does not aim to uncover student misconceptions, it is still
relevant to my work by showing how to take a conceptual inventory of student knowledge
and analyze it using rigorous statistical methods.

Simonneaux, L. "A Study of Pupils' Conceptions and Reasoning in Connection with Microbes
as a Contribution to Research in Biotechnology Education", International Journal of
Science Education, 22(6): 619-644, 2000.

Although this paper focuses mainly on high school students, it is a useful piece of
background work describing students' misconceptions about microbes. The author
interviewed many students in order to learn about their attitudes and knowledge about
microbes.  I may be able to use some of these questions as a springboard for the
questions I would like to ask my students.

Smith, H.R. "An Excellent Means of Assessment: Short Write-to-Learn Activities for the
Microbiology Course", Focus on Microbiology Education, 15(2): 7-8, 2009.

Though quite brief, this article provides excellent writing prompts that may be used in
an introductory microbiology classroom.  Even though I do use in-class writing already, I
believe that I need to ask broader questions in order to elicit responses that will show
me my students' preconceptions and misconceptions.  The writing prompts in this article
have already inspired me to think about how I can tailor my assignments to best reveal
what my students are thinking and thus improve my teaching interventions.

Buxeda, R. and Moore, D.A. "Expanding a Learner-Centered Environment Using Group Reports
and Constructivist Portfolios", Microbiology Education, 2(1): 12-17, 2001.

This article appeared in an ERIC search for "misconceptions, microbiology, assessment"
and although I have not been able to access and read it, it appears useful for one main
reason--it addresses the issue of student awareness of misconceptions and metacognition. 
I believe that it is very important for students to have an awareness of what they know
and don't know in order to best address their conceptual "gaps" so I look forward to
finding out what these researchers uncovered in their work.  This investigation took
place in a microbial physiology course and appears to have useful references as well.
[1] Mickle, J.E., Aune, P. (2008).  Development of a Laboratory Course in Nonmajors General Biology for Distance Education. Journal of College Science Teaching, May/June, 35-39. 
 This article begins by discussing issues associated with incorporating labs in an online science course, without requiring students to come to campus.  The authors then describe an online biology course where a kit of materials was developed that allowed students to conduct experiments at home, while giving them hands-on experience doing science in a safe way.  This article is relevant to my research interests, in that it provides an example of the successful design and implementation of a lab-based online science course. 

[2] Gilman, S.L. (2006). Do Online Labs Work? An Assessment of an Online Lab on Cell Division. The American Biology Teacher, November/December, 131-134. 
In this study, the author measured the effectiveness of a cell division lab exercise for science majors conducted either online or on-campus.  The authors found that students who performed the online lab exercise scored slightly higher on a post-activity quiz than their on-campus counterparts (12.1 versus 10.8 out of 15 points, respectively). However, students noted that they missed the interactions with their classmates and with the instructor. As a result, it was proposed that there be a greater use of online course tools such as discussion forums in order to reduce this sense of working alone.  While the authors concluded that this lab exercise was a good fit for online learning, they suggested that more open-ended, inquiry-based activities might not work in an online setting.  In my own research, I found that in-service science teachers can readily engage in open-ended inquiries in an online course.  However, is this also the case for the undergraduate majors and/or nonmajors that I currently teach?

[3] Rodriguez, J., Ortiz, I., Dvorsky, E. (2006).  Introducing Evolution Using Online Activities in a Nonmajor Biology Course. Journal of College Science Teaching, May/June, 31-35 
This paper describes a study of two introductory biology courses, in which the learning objectives and activities allowed students to “apply scientific thinking skills, elaborate research questions, propose hypotheses, design experiments, and present their results.”  The authors used four online programs (EvoDots, FrogPond, PhyloStrat, and PopCycle) and discussion forums to support students’ learning of genetics and evolution.  Their findings show that when comparing pre- to post-tests, students who completed these online activities performed 37% higher, whereas students who did not only scored 15.8% higher.  The authors, however, did not discuss the extent to which online students applied their scientific skills through hypothesis formation, experimental design, etc. This is an area of interest that relates to my research project.
[4] Limson, M., Witzlib, C., Deshamais, R.A. (2007). Using Web-Based Simulations to Promote Inquiry. Science Scope, February, 36-42. 
This study explores the use of an online resource that “engage[s] students in an inquiry-based study of the principles of genetic inheritance.”  This study was of particular interest to me since I have used this resource in an online genetics course for in-service teachers.  Using this program, students can select and mate flies with particular traits, observe the resulting offspring characteristics, develop hypotheses, and perform back-crosses to confirm or refute these hypotheses.  The authors found that students indeed applied the skills of scientific inquiry.  In addition, students reported a fuller understanding of genotype and phenotypes as a result of this online, inquiry-based activity.  This made me wonder, though, which aspect(s) of this project best supported student learning.  Was it the animations contained within these online activities, the inquiry-based nature of these activities, or some combination of these two?
[5] Styer, S.C. (2009). Constructing and Using Case Studies in Genetics to Engage Students in Active Learning. The American Biology Teacher, 71, 142-143.  
This paper discusses the use of case studies in the teaching of Genetics.  This does not specifically discuss the use of case studies in distance learning, however, it does discuss its role in actively engaging students and allowing them to “experience critical thinking inherent in the science process.”  When using case studies, the author discusses an approach of not giving all of the information initially in order to promote their thinking skills.  The author also shares a number of case study resources.  After attending a conference last year hosted by UBuffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (which was also referenced in this article), I became interested in using case studies in my own courses.  I would like to determine what affect (if any) these might have on online student learning.
 Both of these reports provide valuable information related to distance learning.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. (2009). Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, Washington, D.C.  Retrieved July 6, 2009 from:
 National Science Foundation.  (2008). Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge A 21st Century Agenda for the National Science Foundation. Report of the NSF Task Force on Cyberlearning, Washington, D.C.  Retrieved July 6, 2009 from:
 1. Sanz de Acedo Lizarraga, M.L., Sanz de Acedo Baquedano, M.T.; Goicoa Mangado T.; Cardelle-Elawar, M. (2009). Enhancement of Thinking Skills: Effects of Two Intervention Methods. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 4 [1]: 30-33
The authors conducted three quasi-quantitative studies in Spanish Secondary Schools of two different intervention methods aimed at enhancing thinking skills. One was an infusion method, where the thinking skills are taught within the classes, and the second was an “instrumental enrichment program”, where the thinking skills are taught in a separate course. The authors found that both programs, but especially the infusion method, increased both thinking skills and subject competency, as judged by several different assessment instruments.
This is a great example of both methods and quasi-quantitative assessment for critical thinking. I was impressed that both methods used – successfully - an explicit (to the students) approach to teaching critical thinking. Method-wise, I would like to learn more about different assessment instruments, and which ones are appropriate for the college level (e.g., one of the tests used is designed for 8-15 year olds).

2. De Wever, B.; Van Keer, H.; Schellens, T.; Valcke, M. (2009). Tagging Thinking Types in Asynchronous Discussion groups. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25 [2]: 177-188
    The authors assess the value for improving critical thinking processes by having students use DeBono’s “thinking hats”. As students posted to an online discussion, they had to identify what kind of contribution they are making – what kind of “thinking hat” they are using. For example the white hat identifies the problem (an early stage of critical thinking, according to Garrison’s framework), while the black hat evaluates different possible solutions (a later stage). The study found that using the thinking hat conceptualization increased critical thinking in general, and problem identification and exploration in particular.
    I was attracted to this study again because it uses a method where the teaching of critical thinking is explicit, as in my own teaching. It is also valuable in that it aims to evaluate critical thinking ability, with painstaking grouping and evaluation of online discussion inputs into critical thinking categories, representing to me an alternative assessment approach.

3. Sadler D.R. (2009) Indeterminacy in the Use of Preset Criteria for Assessment and Grading.  Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 34 [2]: 159-179
    The author identifies problems with the widespread grading practice of open-ended and complex assignments using pre-set and explicit (to the students) criteria. One such problem is the conflict between atomized (“analytic”) grading and a more holistic approach and the problems stemming from a grader’s effort to resolve this conflict.  He identifies the major reason for the problems with preset criteria as due to indeterminacy, a condition where the proposed method (here, preset criteria) is insufficient to give complete solutions to the problem  (assessment of complex work). Considering also the problems with holistic approaches, his proposed solution is active student engagement in the process of evaluation, with anonymous peer grading and exposure to multiple examples of peer work along with instructor evaluation.
    The ideas in this paper are directly related to my interest in promoting and assessing critical thinking. It is curious that the proposed solution further increases the students higher level thinking and metacognition, with some observed benefits such as becoming self-critical and developing the ability to self-monitor – and so can be an example of another potentially successful explicit approach to teaching critical thinking.

As none of the studies I found this week (as in references 1-3 above) compare using an explicit approach to teaching thinking skills to an implicit one, I hope to find such studies in the future.

4. Rowbottom D.P. (2007). Demystifying Threshold Concepts. J. Phil. Educ. 41 (2): 263-270
The author points out problems with the current definition of  “threshold concepts” [TC] and issues in applying the idea of TC to teaching and assessment, in particular the consideration that what may be a TC for one person may not be for another, and that learning a TC is not sufficient for acquiring a concept as an ability.
The importance of this article to me was to remind me of the value of philosophy, in particular the clarification it can bring, even though the short length of this article did not allow the author to sufficiently defend some of his arguments and as a result the article was frustratingly unsatisfying.
In the future, I would like to see if there are any studies of the effectiveness of teaching using TC. The literature I have seen and active learning seminars I have attended operate on the notion that it brings something new and that it is efficacious.

5. The Difference that Inquiry Makes:  A Collaborative Case Study of Technology and Learning, from the Visible Knowledge Project. Reprinted from the January 2009 issue of Academic Commons on  “New Media Technologies and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning,” edited by Randy Bass with Bret Eynon ( Retrieved July 2, 2009, from the Visible Knowledge project website https://digitalcommons.georgetown.ed...09/02/20/bass/
    This publication is a compendium of the research of several groups as part of the Visible Knowledge Project, which aims to capture “invisible learning”, the invisible intermediate processes of the learning process, including both its cognitive and affective components.
    Most striking is the finding that technology can be used to engage novice learners in expert thinking. This is a difficult task that technology may be particularly suited to as it allows access to sources of “undigested” and complex information, and allows one to move at one’s own pace, while focusing on analysis and on the creative, rather than the memorization of material pre-processed by an instructor.
    It would be interesting to find out whether there have been efforts like this one in the biological sciences. I would also like to learn whether there are other educators that explicitly think about different paths from novice to expert, in particular whether the time can be shortened through approaches aimed at improving metacognition and the use of explicit conceptualization of field-specific material.

1)      Narloch, R., Garbin, C.P., & Turnage, K.D. (2006). Benefits of Prelecture Quizzes. Teaching of Psychology, 33(2), 109-112.
The authors wanted to investigate if prelecture quizzes increased exam performance in students in a sensation and perception course in comparison to no-quiz control groups. The quizzes tested initial proficiency of basic terms and concepts contained in assigned reading. The quizzes were either matching or fill-in-the-blank questions depending on the semester. They also included in their study course evaluation responses and estimates of how long the students spent preparing for class meetings and examinations. They also tape-recorded classes to reveal the types of questions students asked. They chose prelecture quizzes because previous research has indicated that the success of post-lecture quizzes was contingent on the quizzes and the subsequent exams being of similar level and content. Their study was conducted over 5 consecutive semesters without varying the instructor, text, lecture content, and exam questions. Their results clearly demonstrate that prelecture quizzes improve student performance and satisfaction. In my original research problem, I was planning on administering post-lecture quizzes. But after reading this article, I am reconsidering this plan given the contingencies that authors mentioned. I am now thinking that pre-lecture quizzes may be way to go. This article also provided me with additional data to collect from the students in regard to preparation, course evaluation, etc. 
2)      Connor-Greene, P.A. (2000). Assessing and Promoting Student Learning: Blurring the Line Between Teaching and Testing. Teaching of Psycholgoy, 27(2), 84-88.
In the background of this article, the author points out that many faculty emphasize critical thinking, active learning, and problem solving in their classroom, yet their tests do not encourage this. In other words, if we as teachers value a behavior or form of learning, then we must assess it. Therefore, the author replaced scheduled tests with daily essay quizzes as a combined teaching and assessment tool. She too evaluated student perceptions and self-reported behaviors related to the daily quizzes. The quizzes in her women and psychology course consisted of 2 brief essay questions from required reading and previous lecture material that required multiple levels of thinking rather than recall. She compared this ccourse to an Abnormal Psychology course in which students received 4 scheduled tests. The results showed that student study behavior is strongly influenced by tests.   The author points out that although it is perceived that daily quizzes maximize student learning, an analysis of student grades between the 2 groups (daily quiz group versus 4 scheduled tests group) showed no difference. The author did mention thatthe focus of her study was on student perceptions and self-reported behaviors rather than assessing whether more learning actually occurred in the daily quizzes group. Although I do not plan to replace exams in my course with daily quizzes (as the author did), I did find this article helpful for my research. It provided me with some guidance on collecting additional information such as student perceptions, self-reported student behaviors, global perceptions, etc. It also once again emphasized to me that faculty need to ensure that our methods of evaluation and assessment fit our goals. 
3)      Haberyan, K.A. (2003) Do Weekly Quizzes Improve Student Performance on General Biology Exams? The American Biology Teacher, 65(2), 110-114.
The author in this study sought to test his hypothesis that weekly quizzes in college-level non-major General Biology courses would improve student performance on regular hourly exams. In his study, he compared student performance in 2 sections of General Biology using only 4 exams versus 2 sections of General Biology that received weekly quizzes in addition to the 4 exams. The quizzes consisted of five to seven fill-in-the-blank questions from previous lecture material and assigned readings. All sections had the identical lecture sequence, text, course materials, etc. The author also distributed a survey to the experimental (quizzed) class about time spent studying for exams & quizzes, perception as to whether or not studying for quizzes helped on the exams, and if the students would have preferred same course without the quizzes. The results demonstrated that there were no significant difference in exam performance between the experimental (quizzed) sections and the control (non-quizzed) sections.   He suggests that this result may be due to the use of weekly quizzes in the companion lab course which form the primary component of the student’s lab grade. This might cause the student to study more for lab quizzes than lecture exam. This article is applicable to my research because the author suggests that synergism of lab and lecture sequencing needs to be addressed. In my General Biology course, there is synergy between lecture and lab. In other words, the students that are in lecture together are also in the same lab section. Perhaps because of this, my results will turn out differently. In addition, I plan on giving daily quizzes rather than weekly quizzes. He too gave surveys that have provided me with additional questions to ask my students about perception, attitude, etc. 
4)      Glenn, D. (2007) You Will Be Tested on This. Researchers are dusting off an old insight: To Maximize classroom learning, quiz early and often. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(40), A17. 
The article begins with a description of a study in 1939 by Herbert Spitzer in which thousands of Iowa sixth graders were to read an article about bamboo and they would subsequently be given long multiple choice quizzes at various intervals. Mr. Spitzer concluded that an effective method of retention is immediate recall in the form of a test. The article continues by saying that the purpose of quizzing is to implant facts in students’ memory rather than motivating students to pay attention or study more. It describes a few additional studies, all of which have the same take-home message: faculty need to give frequent short-answer quizzes either at the beginning or end of each class session. This forces students to repeatedly retrieve facts from memory and ultimately develop deeper fluency in the material. This brief article reinforces the purpose of my research problem. It also emphasizes to me that faculty need to connect their teaching tasks and methods of evaluation and assessment. This article also provides me with additional references for more information on the research mentioned in the article. 
5)      Kornell, N., & Bjork, R.A. (2007, May). On the illusionary benefits of easy learning: Studying small stacks of flashcards. Poster presented at the 19th Annual Meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, Washington, D.C. 
The purpose of this research was to determine if it is better to study one BIG stack of 20 word pair flashcards everyday or split them into 4 small stacks (5 word pairs per stack) and study one stack each day. When asked to estimate how well they would do on the final exam, those studying the small stacks predicted that they would remember a higher percentage of the words on the final exam in comparison to those studying the BIG stack. But, it turned out, their performance was the opposite. Those who repeatedly studied the BIG stack on average scored 26% higher than those studying the small stacks. Therefore, it was concluded that distributed study sessions result in more learning than study sessions mounted together. In other words, cramming doesn’t work. This study is important to my research problem because it demonstrates that administering daily quizzes should increase exam performance and essentially class performance because the students are studying the material at continuous intervals spread out over time instead of studying the material in immediate succession. 
1. Baum DA, Smith SD, Donovan SSS. 2005. The Tree-Thinking Challenge. Science 310:  979-980. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1117727].
This paper is really the "call to arms" with respect to tree-thinking, referring to the use of phylogenetic trees to study evolution.  These authors point out that phylogenetic analysis, which is used to infer phylogenetic trees to interpret ancestor-descendent relationships, is rarely employed outside the realm of professional evolutionary biologists.  The authors would like to raise the status of tree-thinking as a major theme in our students' evolution training, arguing that phylogenetic trees are the most direct representation of ancestor-descendent relationships, which are the core concept of evolutionary theory.   I have heard anecdotally that many people have used the Tree-Thinking Quizzes that are included in this paper as supplemental material available online.
2. Gregory TR. 2008. Understanding Evolutionary Trees. Evolution Education and Outreach 1:121-137. [DOI 10.1007/s12052-008-0035-x]
This paper provide an extensive introduction to evolutionary trees with guidelines about how to read and interpret them.   The author then examines, with excellent examples, ten common misconceptions about phylogenetic trees that he claims represent "fundamental barriers to understanding how evolution operates". This paper is really nice in that it provides the reader with a reference to the tree-building quiz developed by Eli Meir et al. (contained in EvoBeaker), is well referenced, and has many useful links to online resources for understanding evolution and tree thinking.
3. Brewer S. 1996. A Problem-Solving Approach to the Teaching of Evolution.  Bioscene 22(2): 11-17.
Brewer's work with John Jungck on the computer program Phylogenetic Investigator, available through BioQuest, has inspired some of my own teaching efforts.  The goal of Phylogenetic Investigator was to have students use phylogenies in a problem-posing, problem-solving and peer-evaluation instruction model.  I used Phylogenetic Investigator with a group of Honors students one semester in my Intro Organismal course to study the evolution of HIV.  The Bioscene paper, while not particularly well focussed, has much valuable information on problem-solving as a general educational method with comments to its applicability to the teaching of evolutionary concepts.  Again, it is argued that the historical and comparative approaches, which are important for really understanding the significance of evolutionary theory, are really given short shrift compared to natural selection and the functional perspective.  This paper derives from Brewer's Ph. D. dissertation in Science Education.
4. Julius ML, Schoenfuss HL.  2006. Phylogenetic Reconstruction as a Broadly Applicable Teaching Tool in the Biology Classroom: The Value of Data in Estimating Likely Answers. Journal of College Science Teaching 35: 40-45.
This paper describes an exercise that is very similar in spirit to the one that we developed in our course.  Julius and Schoenfuss used a set of vertebrate skulls to have students develop a character matrix for phylogenetic analysis.  Julius and Schoenfuss emphasize scientific literacy, which gets to the heart of the matter with respect to why I wanted to use phylogenies in my class in the first place.  They do a really nice job of bringing in Popper's 1959 book, "The Logic of Scientific Discovery", in which the importance of using data to discern between competing hypotheses is brought out.  This is the key concept I want to teach.  Phylogenies are hypotheses of the evolutionary relationships of groups of organisms, and we have objective criteria (data and methods) that we use to decide which of two competing hypotheses is preferred.  This is the key thing that makes evolutionary biology science.  This paper also includes some assessment of student learning in summary form.  Senior level students who had completed this laboratory performed better on the evolution section of a summative exam (65% vs. 34%), while students in lower level courses who had completed this laboratory were found to perform an average of 11% better in an exam covering systematics and evolution.  Unfortunately none of the actual data were included in the paper.  .
5. Singer F, Hagen JB, Sheehy RR. 2001. The comparative method, hypothesis testing & phylogenetic analysis – An Introductory Laboratory. The American Biology Teacher 63: 518 – 523.
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