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Title:   Team-based learning in a large lecture course: effective even in small doses

Primary question: Does a more conservative integration of team-based learning activities impact learning and retention in a relatively large (80+ students) lecture course in animal physiology?



The course is Principles of Animal Physiology (BIOL 3151) which has integrated lecture & laboratory components. 

  • Biology majors, typically juniors
  • Prerequisites: organic chemistry (2 quarters); biostatistics strongly recommended
  • 80+ students per quarter
  • On quarter sysem (10-week course)



  • Student understanding and information retention are particularly difficult for students in a highly conceptual, content dense course such as animal physiology. 
  • Student understanding and retention of concepts/processes may be greatly enhanced by engagement in team-based learning activities embedded within lectures. 
  • The student-centered approach to teaching often urges a more wholesale delivery of a course using the team-based learning approach, but this may be cumbersome in a highly enrolled course, content dense course, such as animal physiology. 
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Does the reduction of cognitive load improve attitudes and learning?

My thought is that it may not be the # of tasks, but the quality of the task that matters. Seems like inquiry-based tasks may be more useful than memory-based tasks. How are you evaluating the quality of task? Can you label each task by what level of Bloom's the task addresses?
Posted 15:48, 17 Jul 2009
Does reducing cognitive load influence student learning? Do you mean improve? And it what ways... grades, higher blooms, etc??

measures of meaningful learning sounds like bloom's and yep, you are looking at bloom's
Posted 15:50, 17 Jul 2009
Have you considered the time on task, or total time spent in lab? If they only have 4 vs. 8 tasks, will they just leave earlier?

Have you considered encouraging the students to do inter-group interaction in the 4 tasks group? They will have extra time, so they could do this.
Posted 15:50, 17 Jul 2009
you will need to describe carefully what you are doing when you decrease the cognitive load: ie, decreasing # of facts as well as increasing depth, etc.
your third group could be 4 tasks with peer discussion that is unfacilitated
Posted 15:51, 17 Jul 2009
You may want to consider having the 3rd section have a bit of both. Some labs 4 tasks, other labs 8 tasks.
Posted 15:51, 17 Jul 2009
When I was a masters student, I TA'd a course called "Determinative Microbiology". This was as course taken by juniors and seniors and was actually a methods course, and the instructor of record said I could do whatever I wanted.

At the beginning of the course, I assigned the students to find develop a list of particular techniques they wanted to learn about, then they formed groups based on their interests, and they spent several weeks researching the technique and creating a method to demonstrate the technique. Later each group demonstrated the technique for the rest of the class.

This was in the mid-1980s and molecular biology was pretty low tech plus we didn't have much equipment. E.g., I recall that one group created an apparatus for measuring melting point of DNA to get the G+C% from scratch.

I recall that the students really liked the course and seemed to learn a lot but I don't recall how I evaluated them. edited 15:53, 17 Jul 2009
Posted 15:51, 17 Jul 2009
Great idea of looking into the cognitive load, however, you may need to look at both, numbers of and quality of tasks.
Posted 17:52, 17 Jul 2009
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