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Reading Reflections

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·     How would you describe your “research problem(s)” to the Research Scholars group? 

Students are most comfortable with traditional lecture-based instruction.  They seem to feel that they are “being taught” if the professor is spending lots of time giving them information.  An active learning classroom de-emphasizes the role of the instructor and forces the students to engage with the material in more complex ways.  It also requires them to interact with other students and the instructors in learning and discovery rather than being told the answer (if there is one) by the instructor.  It also forces them to prepare for class outside of course meeting times.  The perception is that this time isn’t “instruction”. 

Given the different expectations of an active learning classroom, I struggle with establishing student buy in on the value of student-centered learning.  How can I create an environment that not only engages the students and gets them to think about the learning goals for the course, but also provides them with the feedback required for them to perceive and acknowledge their own learning? 

Some problems/questions I would like to investigate are: 

1.     How do students perceive that they are learning? 

2.     Does this match with actual learning gains? 

3.     Can classroom strategies be designed to match perceptions/expectations to learning? 

Goal: The design of classroom activities that allow students to perceive learning gains that match actual learning as assessed by objective measures.


·     What theme(s) based on your readings, resonate with your “problem” and/or your proposed approach to address your problem. 

The theme that most closely aligns with my own experience is that learning is a complex process.  While it can be dissected into smaller pieces, it is the integrated whole that is important in the end. 


·     Based on Pat Hutchings article, what taxonomy would you use to describe your research question and why? 

What works?—We are trying to establish the efficacy of an active learning environment 

Visions of the possible—The issue of retention revolves around students remaining excited about the study of biology. 

Theory building—Why are some things hard for students to learn?—This gets back to “what works”.  If students are struggling, we need to identify what they are struggling with and why.  We can then design a plan to approach those learning areas in new ways.


·     Do you have any questions/concerns/comments that have evolved from your reading? 

While the somewhat relaxed approaches of Classroom Action Research are appealing, the data and the conclusions are only as good as the experimental design. One must be careful to maintain a high standard of evidence.  I also find myself in a position where the university administration needs to see evidence that the transformations we are undertaking in introductory biology are having an impact.  Being able to publish results from a relatively narrowly focused study would be helpful in that arena.

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