2006 Teaching and Learning Symposium

3:00-4:30 p.m., April 25, 2006
Mary Gates Commons


Session Description

A Supplementary Instruction Model for Engaging Students in Active Learning and Enhancing Metacognition

Brian Buchwitz and Clarissa Dirks - Biology

How can we encourage students to pursue learning in an active, self-monitoring manner that can be incorporated into their daily study habits?  To address this, we have developed a supplementary instruction model and related materials corresponding to the Introductory Biology Series courses (Biology 180, 200, and 220). Students in these courses are challenged to learn a large amount of information and must properly structure that information such that they can apply their knowledge and skills to new situations. Accordingly, we would like to emphasize active learning strategies that give students practice at working with biological content at different levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, particularly at the application, analysis, and synthesis levels. Thus, we have designed modules that aim to both test and teach biological content in a hierarchical manner. Each module contains a pre- and post-test composed of questions corresponding to different levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, and numerous activities from which students may select to best help them learn the material. These activities span Bloom’s taxonomy, cater to different learning styles, and provide a mechanism by which a mentor can work with a group students having different levels of preparation.

By surveying students at various points during their use of the supplementary materials, we have learned that this model encourages students to reevaluate their understanding as they progress through the materials.  Thus, in addition to increasing their familiarity with course topics and active learning techniques, the supplementary materials provide an opportunity to assist students in the development of metacognitive skills. The model also assists mentors in helping groups of students who are at different levels with respect to their understanding of the material. Therefore, this approach can be broadly applicable to a variety of settings and disciplines.