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ASM-CUE 2009 - Presentation

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Woohoo... I can't wait to see all of you!

Here is my abstract! (1845 characters!  How is that for cutting it close!)

 

Creating a Learner-Centered Non-Majors Biology Course: Getting Back More Than You Give Away!
C.A. Hurney
. James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA.

Learner-centered teaching in its fullest form represents a philosophical shift in how both the instructor and students approach the learning goals of a course.  Designing a learner-centered course involves making shifts in the role of the instructor, balance of power, function of content, and/or responsibility for learning.  This poster addresses the problem of creating a learner-centered environment in a large (~75 students) non-majors biology course.  The instructor implemented strategies that allowed students to select course topics and allocate points to assignments and exams.  Prior to implementing the student-centered environment, the first unit was taught in a teacher-centered format rich with a variety of strategies to engage the students in the learning process (e.g., collaborative activities and clicker questions).  After the first unit, the students selected the content of the course based on several news stories assigned from a biology news website (www.biologynews.net).   Survey results indicated that students valued the impact most of the activities had on their learning and choose to utilize all of the activities during the rest of the semester.  However, they decided to increase the number of points allocated to the clicker questions.  Students were also given the power, prior to receiving grades, to determine whether exams or projects carried more weight for their individual course grade.  Results from the end of the semester, indicated that 65% of the students agree or strongly agree that choosing the topics helped them learn the course material better.  Students also reported that they put more effort into the parts of the course that they had weighted more heavily and although they would prefer deciding how to allocate points after receiving their grades, they understood why it was more effective to make the decision before the assignment or exam.  Finally, survey results support that students are more reflective of the learning environment, confident in their ability to learn biological topics and more interested in biology than they thought they would be.  From the perspective of the instructor, well what can I say?  It was amazing!