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ASM-CUE 2009 - Presentation

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This is what I submitted!

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 more than creating a course where students are engaged.  Rather, it represents a shift in the balance of power, function of content, and/or responsibility for learning in a course.  This poster explores how I created a learner-centered environment in a large (75 students) non-majors biology course with an emphasis on increasing the students’ scientific literacy skills.  Prior to implementing a learner-centered environment, I taught the first unit in a teacher-centered format rich with a variety of strategies designed to engage the students in learning (e.g., collaborative activities and clicker questions).  To make this course learner-centered, I shifted the balance of power to the students in three ways.  I implemented strategies that allowed students to select course topics for the rest of the semester, allowed the class to determine the types of assignments and points allocated to these assignments for each unit, and let students individually decided, prior to receiving grades, whether exams or projects carried more weight for their final grade.  Mid-semester survey results indicated that students valued the learning impact of most of the assignments and chose to utilize all of them during the rest of the semester.  However, they decided to increase the number of points allocated to the clicker questions.  One of the topics selected by the students was the Biology of Cancer, which is a unit I have taught before.  Exam results from the learner-centered version of this unit were higher than the teacher-centered exam scores.  Survey results from the end of the semester, indicated that 65% of the students agreed or strongly agreed 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.    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!

 

First Version of Abstract

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!