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Introductory Biology Courses: A Framework To Support Active Learning in Large Enrollment Introductory Science Courses

Abstract

"Active learning and research-oriented activities have been increasingly used in smaller, specialized science courses. Application of this type of scientific teaching to large enrollment introductory courses has been, however, a major challenge. The general microbiology lecture/laboratory course described has been designed to incorporate published active-learning methods. Three major case studies are used as platforms for active learning. Themes from case studies are integrated into lectures and laboratory experiments, and in class and online discussions and assignments. Students are stimulated to apply facts to problem-solving and to learn research skills such as data analysis, writing, and working in teams. This course is feasible only because of its organizational framework that makes use of teaching teams (made up of faculty, graduate assistants, and undergraduate assistants) and Web-based technology. Technology is a mode of communication, but also a system of course management. The relevance of this model to other biology courses led to assessment and evaluation, including an analysis of student responses to the new course, class performance, a university course evaluation, and retention of course learning. The results are indicative of an increase in student engagement in research-oriented activities and an appreciation of real-world context by students."

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