most students learn better in a traditional lecture style compared to
use of group activities? How difficult is it to institute group
activities into the classroom and still cover the 'content' expected?
Will use of group activities compared to traditional lecture lead to a
difference in student confidence on a subject? How will students
perceive these activities and how will they react to the idea that
others in their "classroom" are being exposed to material in a
different way? Would they have a preference/know their own best
one of my college science professors used group activities or/and
problem based learning during lecture time. My exposure to teaching
style as an undergraduate was very straight forward content. There was
very little interaction between the lecturer and the students and
definitely no interaction between students during lecture. I currently
feel to design and implement group activities in my lectures will
benefit the students by helping them learn to communicate with others
and help them identify important concepts within a group. They are time
consuming to develop and time consuming to 'practice'. To have data on
their impact will help me justify my efforts and encourage me to find
the right balance.
believe these questions are of interest to others for the same reasons.
To implement group activities in lecture is not an easy task and often
instructors shy away just because of the time commitment. If there was
data out there to suggest reasons to use one teaching method/style over
another it would benefit the basic science instructor.
was able to locate some literature dealing with the institution of a
conceptual, problem based basic Biology class at an traditional
undergraduate college. The literature suggested the students learned
more (based on standardized testing), but that they were overly
critical of the learning environment and the 'extra' work the class
required of them. The instructors required more take home reading and
assignments to make up for time lost in class doing 'activities'. I
believe there is a balance that can be found. Not that student
'satisfaction' is a goal, but I would like to convey a love for science
expected that a majority of the students will learn as much in the
lecture as the group activity, but that group activities and the peer
learning would lead to greater confidence and possibly longer retention
of conceptual knowledge. Furthermore, I also expected some students to
very clearly know which learning style they prefer and I think that may
affect their confidence.
project was conducted at the Columbia State Community College during
the microbiology course, which I was instructing. The protocols
described in this poster were approved by CSCC's Institutional Review
Board. The research modules were done in collaboration with the
laboratory instructor, Paige Baugher. The course is a 4-credit hour
course which meets twice a week; i). 3 hours for lecture and ii). 2
hours for lab.
were 21 students in the course for the full term. A majority of the
students were "pre-allied health". There were veterinary technology
majors, pre-nursing, respiratory care, pre-dental hygiene and some
undeclared students . Most of these students were taking the class to
get into the one of the allied health programs, but almost all were
taking it because it is a required class for their major. It is
commonly the second biology class these students enroll in at the
college level. From what I have been told by Biology instructors these
are the most motivated students at Columbia and the evening class is
usually even a step above the day time students in those terms.
had high expectations because this is a class that will impact their
professional lives and it is very important they have an understanding
of MANY concepts from this class. To really focus on the most important
for them to understand the process of scientific discovery and how to
critically evaluate how today's media presents scientific and health
2. for them to be able to identify both positive and negative impacts of microbes in society.
that they will understand the major differences between disease causing
microbes and how those differences in genetics, metabolism,
reproduction, ect affect the way each microbe causes disease.
4. that they will understand how the body responds to infections and vaccinations.
that they can not just identify to understand how a disease, treatment,
or vaccination "works", but also how it affects public health issues,
economics, religious beliefs.
Resources and Obstacles
would like to thank the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching for providing
the Classroom Response System and associated software used to assess
classroom learning during this study.
would also like to personally thank Derek Bruff, Ph.D., Assistant
Director of the CFT, and Heather Rippetoe, Teaching Fellow, for their
insights and direction in the design,implementation, and analysis of
we would like to thank our students at Columbia State for their
participation and good sportsmanship during the course of this project.
'modules' were conducted with Paige Baugher. She is the instructor for
the laboratory component of the same class. Students were asked to take
a learning style quiz online and turn in the results.
The evidence was gathered over 4 class sessions spread throughout the Spring of 2007 (approximately every 3 weeks).
On 4 different class meetings we designated approximately 1 hour to gather evidence.
the beginning of each module a pre-test was administered asking both
questions about the material and questions about how confident they are
in their answers. These tests were conducted using the Classroom
Response System (CRS or clickers). The students were given a clicker
number that became their private identifier.
CRS is a wireless response system that allows faculty to request
information and for students to respond by using a hand-held response
pad to send information to a receiver. The computer records and/or
displays the response in a variety of ways. This system allows for both
student anonymity as well as quick feedback.
class was then split into two groups (alternating groups the next
session). One group stayed with me and be presented with material
through a traditional lecture style (that is my traditional lecture
style), while Paige took the other group to another room and the
students will be exposed to the same material through an active group
30-45 minutes (depending on the amount of material), the students were
brought back together. We then administered a post-test. The post-test
questions consisted of both questions from the pre-test (3) and new
test questions (3). The multiple choice questions ranged from simple
(regurgitation), to complex (applying the concept to a problem, or the
best way to design an experiment to address a problem). The students
were again asked to rank their confidence on the answer to each
question. As extra motivation for them to do well during these modules
the students received bonus points for correct post-test questions.
Sample Pre-test and post-test questions can be seen below.
assess long term learning we administered a practice test (review) and
picked out the questions that relate the topics covered in these
modules. This practice test was administered during the last class
before the final exam. Therefore, the time since each module varied.
The long term assessment was not graded and there was no extra
motivation for them (no bonus points, ect.).
we had the student evalulate these sessions. They were asked to
consider which learning style they prefer and why. The link to the
final evaluation can be seen below.
assess student learning from the modules, the scores from the pre-test
and post-test were used to calculate normalized gain. Normalized gain
was calculated for each individual in the class and then the average
normalize gain was calculated for each learning environment. Normalized
gain is also referred to as the g-factor.
Where, g=(post test- pre-test)/ (100 - pre-test).
the confidence scores were recorded and the change in confidence score
calculated. In our measurements, the students rated their confidence on
a scale of 1-5, where 1 was most confident. Therefore the lower the
confidence score, the more confident the student.
learning styles were assess through an online test they took at the
beginning of the semester during laboratory time. This test suggested
that a majority of our class were visual learners and only a small
percentage were tactile learners.
believe one of the most significant findings was that over time, the
normalized gain increased. With each module the student's average
normalized gain increased. In
the first module the normalized gain for group learning was only 0.2
and for lecture based learning it was 0.5. In the last module, the
normalized gain for both the students in the lecture and the students
in the problem based learning was almost perfect (1.0). This suggested
that either the students learned to be more effective learners as the
semester progressed, or the teachers/facilitators learned to be more
effective teachers, or both. Moreover, these findings suggest that when
instituting a non-conventional teaching method to a classroom, it may
take time to see the benefits.
Overall, there was no significant difference in the gain of knowledge or the gain of confidence between the two teaching styles.
although the students were not resistant to the idea of group learning,
they did not gain as much knowledge from the modules (normalized gain
was <0.5). As time progressed, they became more efficient learners
in the group setting (normalized gain almost 1.0).
students did have a realistic confidence level with their learning
(increased confidence correlated with increased knowledge). There was
no increased level of confidence with learning in the group setting
compared to the lecture setting.
but one student went into the class and left the class with the same
preferred learning style. The one student whose learning style changed
as the student with the highest average in the course. They expanded on
their change in learning style saying, they preferred not to depend on
surprised me because when they did well on a pre-test (like they did
for the pre-test on HIV, with an average pre-test score of 52%), they
did not feel they learned as much from the problem based learning
module, yet, a large group of students still identified the HIV problem
based learning module as their favorite. I think they failed to see
what they did learn because they thought they already new the basics of
term learning on these modules was very high. There was again no
difference between students in the different groups (lecture v. PBL).
With the exception of the first module on mitosis and meoisis, the
average score on the long term evaluation was >90.
also was no correlation between learning style and which environment
they preferred or their performance on the post-test questions.
was a correlation between the final course grade and the student
responses to how they learn best...the students with the highest course
grades (>88) said they learn best when they identify important
concepts for themselves.
Results of Testing
File containing all of the pre-and post-test data. Normalized gain,
test scores and confidence scores are represented. (Increased
confidenced is a negative number- 1 most confident, 5- least confident)
Results from Student Evaluations of the Modules
File containing a summary of the finding of the student evaluations of the modules.
was actually surprised that there was not increased learning and
confidence in the problem based learning sessions, but I think there is
still great value to PBLs and I believe that some of the following
factors may have affected our outcomes.Time was a major factor. If more time was allowed for the Problem Based Learning I believe these would be even more effectiveLearning
beyond "knowledge". There is a great value to learning in groups. A
group is as strong as its weakest member and so many of these student
will be going into settings were decisions are made by a group of
consulting doctors or researchers or veterinarians. The value of them
learning to cooperate and depend on each other was not evaluated
through this study.Finally,
utilizing the classroom response system is great for immediate feedback
and evaluations, but it is more difficult to ask concept based
questions or applicationbased questions using the multiple choice
setting. It is possible that the learning in the group setting compared
to a lecture setting may change the student's ability to apply knowledge.
plan to continue to use PBLs in my teaching. I believe I will create
time way from the class for some of the independent research (and
reading ) time which makes these PBL so effective. We found the PBLs
worked best when the students had some experiences to draw on, such as
vaccinations, but I believe if some of the time pressure is taken away
by creating a take home assignment, the benefits will be greater.
State Community College has been very interested in our project and
they would like us to present on our findings. I do believe that at
least two of the faculty will be willing to try to implement PBLs into
their courses. At Vanderbilt University, I have discussed my findings
with a faculty member at the Medical School where they are currently
undergoing a major change in their curriculum to try to incorporate
PBLs and group learning. Our findings were very interesting to him and
he has suggested we publish them.
This page was designed as part of the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching's Teaching Certificate program.
Author: Derek Bruff
Last Updated: December 15, 2006