(ANOVA). Demographic information about participants was collected, including their first college biology course.
Students were recruited via email for participation in focus-group
interviews. An incentive of a free pizza lunch was offered. Participants were assured that their instructor would not see their individual focus-group transcripts, and only anonymous data regarding
themes and select quotes would be available to instructors. All interested students were invited to participate. The students (n = 8) were
asked questions regarding their attitudes toward various teaching
techniques used in biology lecture, and to compare their prior biology course to Cell Biology. Focus-group interviews were video
recorded and then transcribed before looking for themes.
Participation in focus groups was unexpectedly low, so a paper
follow-up survey was given to all students in Cell Biology during the
last week of class. The survey was administered by the researcher,
the instructor was not present in the room, and students were assured
that only pooled anonymous data would be supplied to the instructor.
Completion of the survey was optional, but most students who were
present in class completed the survey, and all who completed the survey were >18 years old and consented to the use of their responses for
research purposes (n = 59). This survey asked questions similar to
those asked of focus-group participants, including the following:
• In your biology course, your instructor asked you to do a variety
of activities in class to assist in your learning. These may have
included participating in discussion, listening to lecture, performing group work, watching videos, using clickers, performing skits,
and other activities. What was your favorite activity in biology lecture and why?
• Focusing on the lecture portion of your biology course, what do
you feel is the most effective way to learn biology in class? Why?
• If Cell Bio wasn’t your first college biology course, tell me how the
instructional techniques used in your first college biology course
compared to the instructional techniques used in Cell Bio. What
was the same? What was different? Which did you prefer and why?
Thematic analysis (Libarkin & Kurdziel, 2002) was used to
identify common themes in the survey responses and develop categories, and then student responses were binned into the categories
and quantified. Two researchers did this process independently,
then reconciled any differences in categories and binning.
This survey also included a question asking students to select
the approximate percentage of time they spent doing activites (
discussion, answering verbal questions, group work, etc.) rather than
listening to lecture in Cell Biology and any prior biology courses.
Responses to this question were analyzed as categorical data, and
a chi-square test was used to determine whether there was a difference in the distribution of responses between the classes.
Students enrolled in Cell Biology perceived that active-learning
pedagogies were being used in the course, and most students
reported that Cell Biology included more active learning than any
prior biology course they had completed (Organismal Biology or a
course taken at another institution). As shown in Figure 1, most students recognized that active learning was taking place in Cell Biology, with students most frequently reporting that 20% of class
time was being spent on activities. Most students also reported that
their prior biology course(s) had been lecture-based; the most common response was that their prior biology course did not include
any activities (0%). It is worth noting, however, that chi-square analysis indicates that the distribution of answers for the two courses
does not differ significantly (χ2 = 9.37, df = 7, 0.5 > P > 0.1)
Students were surveyed to determine their attitudes toward
active learning using a Likert-scale instrument adapted from Wilke
(2003). Figure 2 illustrates that regardless of whether they had previously completed a lecture-based biology course, students generally
had positive attitudes toward active learning. Students without prior
college biology experience had a mean score of 3.7825 ± 0.49, those
who had completed Organismal Biology (a lecture-based course)
Figure 1. On a survey given at the end of the semester, students enrolled in Cell Biology were asked to estimate approximately
what percentage of class time they spend doing activities (discussion, answering verbal questions, group work, etc.) rather than
listening to lecture in Introductory Cell Biology (A) and any prior college biology courses they had completed (B).