Investigation into the effectiveness of an inquiry-based curriculum in an Introductory Biology laboratory

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1 Investigation into the effectiveness of an inquiry-based curriculum in an Introductory Biology laboratory Molly A. Harris MST student Thesis Defense The University of Maine Advisor Dr. Molly Schauffler April 24 th 2009

2 Traditional undergraduate introductory science courses Lecture/lab format Hands-on activities support lecture content Efficient for large classes Lecture = 800 students Lab = 25 students Step-by-step instruction & predetermined outcome Do traditional labs realize the full potential for learning?

3 Would an inquiry approach offer learning improvement? Students design experiments Think like scientists Open-ended problem solving Teacher is guide Research supported Improvement in content understanding and attitudes

4 BIO100 at the University of Maine Teaching innovation and Excellence in Life Sciences Inquiry lab manual 3-year transition to inquiry labs lab sections lab sections All lab sections

5 Research Questions How do students in inquiry and traditional labs compare in terms of; Lecture exam scores Attitudes towards biology (surveys) Understanding of biology content (surveys) Are different kinds of questions asked in the two lab types? (observations)

6 Measurements Year Group # Labs # TAs Lecture Exams 2007 Traditional Inquiry 2 1 Pretest & all exams Pretest & all exams Attitude and Content Surveys Classroom Observations Posttest only 4 Posttest only Traditional Pretest & all exams Pretest & Posttest Inquiry 15 8 Pretest & all exams Pretest & Posttest 3

7 Overview Methods and Results Lecture exam scores Attitudes towards biology survey Biology content survey Classroom observations Key Findings and Interpretation Recommendations based on this study Potential continuing research

8 Methods Lecture Exam Scores Measurements analyzed Pretest - Final exam (<g>) 3 Prelims - Avg exam score (prelims + final) AIC model selection Parameters; Lab-type, SAT score, honors, year Interactions; Lab-type by honors, Lab-type by year Random effect; TA nested within lab-type Nested ANOVA on normalized gain Nested ANCOVA on prelims and average (pretest)

9 Results Lecture Exam Scores Significance SAT and Year all exams and Pretest Lab-type by year interaction just normalized gain Measurement Prelim #1 No difference No difference Prelim #2 No difference No difference Prelim #3 No difference No difference Normalized gain (Final exam pretest) No difference Traditional students gained more Avg exam score No difference No difference

10 Methods Attitudes towards biology 24-statement Likert-scale survey I have a real desire to learn biology I always tried hard to do well in biology Year Surveys Groups Individual Parameters 2007 Posttest only Nested ANOVA (average) Multinomial Logistic Regression (ordinal data) Lab-type, SAT, Honors, Lab-type by Honors Random effect (TA) 2008 Pretest & Posttest Nested ANOVA (change) Nested ANOVA (change) Same as Major of students

11 Results Attitudes towards biology Value of biology a) 2007: Inquiry mean > Traditional mean b) 2008: Honors + ; Non-honors no in mean Motivation towards biology c) 2007: Inquiry mean > Traditional mean d) 2008: Traditional honors +, Traditional non-honors, Inquiry non-honors, and Inquiry honors - Benefit of laboratory e) 2007: No significant variables f) 2008: Traditional Honors no ; Inquiry Honors -

12 Results Attitudes towards biology 2007 a) Importance of creating hypotheses: Inquiry mean > Traditional mean 2008 b) Enjoyment of bio: Non-honors no in mean, Honors + c) Biology demands more time; Non-honors more + than Honors + Of note (2008): Non-bio majors (Gen ed): + associated with learning biology in group setting and importance of hypothesis Biology majors: remain + with enjoyment and motivation of biology

13 Methods Content understanding Assess how parameters affect misconceptions of Photosynthesis, Enzymes, Mitosis/Meiosis Year Surveys Questions Analysis Parameters 2007 Posttest only 7-questions (author) Binomial Logistic Regression (ordinal data) Lab-type, SAT, Honors, Lab-type by Honors Random effect (TA) 2008 Pretest & Posttest 10-questions (author & literature/cis) Nested ANOVA (change) Lab-type, SAT, %Honors, Lab-type by %Honors, %Biomajors, Random effect (TA)

14 Results Content understanding 2007 SAT, lab-type, and lab-type by honors interactions significantly affected students content understanding Question involving CO 2 as a limiting factor of photosynthesis : Inquiry mean > Traditional mean

15 Results Content understanding 2008 only one question had significant parameters After oogenesis, the genetic information present in an egg and an ovary cell will be; The same Different Depends on the age of the organism a) Inquiry ratio mean > Traditional ratio mean b) Honors ratio mean > Non-honors ratio mean c) Inquiry honors ratio mean > Traditional honors ratio mean

16 Methods Classroom observations Assess reform to inquiry-based CTOP Classroom culture Nature of questions asked during lab by; TA to student Student to TA Student to student Categories of questions Non-science, Grade, Instruction, Knowledge, Higher Order

17 Sample questions for each category Knowledge - What are two photosynthetic pigments you may find in leaves? Higher Order - What do you hypothesize will happen to the photosynthetic rate? Grade/exam - When do we get our exams back? Non-science - Did you see the Red Sox game last night? Instruction clarification Which slide are we suppose to look at now?

18 Results Classroom observations Preliminary data (small sample size and sampling protocol) Inquiry labs had higher CTOP scores on avg Scores varied between laboratory sections (TA) Pattern of more higher order questions in inquiry labs 2007 (higher % of honors students) 2008 (no significant difference in % of honors students)

19 Results Classroom observations

20 Inquiry Traditional

21 Overview Methods and Results Lecture exam scores Attitudes towards biology survey Biology content survey Classroom observations Key Findings and Interpretation Recommendations based on this study Potential continuing research

22 Key findings and interpretation Exam Scores In 2008 traditional students had higher normalized gain than inquiry students Considerations: Final includes 50% cumulative, 50% new material Retention of content? (literature suggests the contrary) Understanding of new content? Stress levels and work load (week before final exam)? Did exams measure kinds of gains inquiry students made? Different exam questions between 2007 & 2008?

23 Key findings and interpretation Attitudes towards biology 2007: inquiry students had more positive attitudes towards Value of biology Motivation towards biology Importance of creating hypotheses

24 Key findings and interpretation Attitudes towards biology 2008: Attitudes towards the benefit of lab decreased for inquiry honors students but did not change for traditional honors students Might honors students be strongly conditioned to traditional approach? Orientation to inquiry learning needed?

25 Key findings and interpretation Attitudes towards biology 2008: Motivation towards biology improved for traditional honors students but decreased for traditional non-honors and both inquiry groups Does it take more than one semester for the benefits of inquiry to become apparent? Need for multiple semesters of inquiry (BIO200?)

26 Secondary findings Attitudes towards biology 2008: Honors students gained positive attitudes for value of biology and enjoyment of biology Why do these students gain more? Can honors students change attitudes of non-honors (+ or -)? Non-biology majors gained positive attitudes towards learning biology in group setting and creating hypotheses Biology majors continued to be motivated and enjoy biology after semester Does lab-type influence students to remain or join STEM programs?

27 Key findings and interpretation Content understanding 2008: Inquiry students, particularly in honors, gained a greater understanding of a meiosis content question than traditional students What is the benefit of covering mitosis and meiosis as individual laboratories? Inquiry labs included a student-designed experiment involving mitosis

28 Key findings and interpretation Classroom observations Inquiry labs had higher CTOP scores than traditional labs, on avg, but varied among TAs TA adaptations of the curriculum affected CTOP scores A greater percentage of higher order questions are asked in inquiry labs compared to traditional labs (in both years, regardless of TA) Inquiry curriculum facilitates more higher order questions? More opportunities?

29 Recommendations based on this study 1) Ensure that the assessments include measures for gains in content and reasoning skills 2) Facilitate the transition to inquiry labs for; Students change their traditional perception of lab TAs provide in depth tutorials on effective teaching strategies for inquiry labs

30 Potential continuing research Assess content questions (lecture and lab) Concept inventory questions don t assess reasoning Scientific reasoning test Analyze for patterns among specific exam questions Designate several questions on final to ask each year Pretest and Posttest Retention of content and skills Do students in the inquiry laboratories retain the content after multiple semesters? Can one semester of BIO100 inquiry labs improve the scientific reasoning of students? (Ability to think more like a scientist)

31 Potential continuing research (cont.) New TA course, improve attitudes of students? Would this level of support for TAs result in more consistency between lab sections Which groups benefit the most from inquiry labs? (attitudes and content understanding) Biology majors vs. Non-biology majors (STEM programs) Honors vs. Non-honors Low SAT vs. Higher SAT

32 Potential continuing research (cont.) Classroom environment Further investigation into the nature of questions asked in lab Student interviews Videotape student discussion in laboratory setting Which students are asking the higher order questions? Mainly honors students, or groups containing honors students? Do group interactions affect student content understanding? Fall 2009 is last transition year, but research/ monitoring should continue Questions, Comments, Ideas?

33 Acknowledgements Thesis Committee Molly Schauffler (advisor) Susan McKay John Thompson Mary Tyler MST Department Faculty and Staff Graduate Students UMaine SBE Brian Olsen (statistics) Farahad Dastoor Seth Tyler (Synapse) Kevin Tracewski Eleanor Groden Ryan Cowan & Jenn Lockhart BIO100 TAs The Henry Lab Family and Friends

34 Questions, comments, ideas? Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire. (W.B. Yeats) Photo courtesy of Ryan Cowan

35 Sample Size Number of students in each year and group who signed their consent forms and had SAT scores available. Year Group # of Students 2007 Traditional Non-honors 512 Traditional Honors 31 Inquiry Non-honors 10 Inquiry Honors 23 Total Traditional Non-honors 213 Traditional Honors 35 Inquiry Non-honors 106 Inquiry Honors 40 Total 394

36 Academic majors requiring BIO100 Examples of the majors in each requirement category for the parameter, majors. General Education BIO100 only BIO100 & BIO208 BIO100 & BIO200 Anthropology Aquaculture Animal & Vet Sciences Biochemistry Marine Mathematics Science Clinical Lab Sciences Biology Chemistry Psychology Microbiology Botany History Sustainable Ag Nursing Wildlife Ecology Undeclared Social Work Kinesiology & Phys Ed Zoology

37 GCI question that may not be assessing reasoning After cell division in skin cells, the genetic information present in the mother and daughter cell will be; the same different depends on the age of the organism

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