2005 Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Showcase

2:30-5:00 p.m., April 19, 2005
Mary Gates Commons

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2:30 Posters | 2:30 Roundables | 4:00 Posters | 4:00 Roundtables

Teaching Students Skills Prior to Immersing Them in Scientific Content Enhances Their Learning and Academic Success

Clarissa Dirks, Biology

I teach Biology 106, a class for incoming freshman and sophomores who have not yet taken Biology 180, the first of three classes in the introductory series that all students must take to major in the life sciences. Biology 180 is a very rigorous course and is offered to over 1,200 students each year. Typically the median grade for this class is around 2.6 and data shows that EOP students perform worse in Biology 180 than their non-EOP peers, a phenomena that we call the 'EOP gap'. Unfortunately, with grades so low, EOP students are at risk for dropping out of the life sciences.

My goal is to better prepare Biology 106 students for the biology introductory series (Biology 180, 200, and 220), particularly because this class is typcially comprised of 40-70% EOP students. After identifying the specific skills needed for success in Biology 180, I focused to teach these skills to my Biology 106 students. Through formative and summative assessment techniques, I found that my students have acquired these skills and applied them to enhance their learning of biology. By tracking my students' grades in the introductory series for three years, I found that the EOP gap still exists within the population of students from Biology 106, but that all of these students are doing much better in the introductory series. For example, the median grade of all Biology 106 students and Biology 106 EOP students in the Biology 180 classes are 3.6 and 3.3, respectively.

These data suggest that if students possess certain skill sets prior to entering core courses in Biology, they perform much better at learning the content provided in the their classes. We found the biggest gain to be with EOP students who are no longer at risk for dropping out of the biological sciences due to low scores in the introductory series.

Poster Session, 4:00-5:00 p.m.