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Learner-Centered Teaching in Nonmajors Introductory Biology: The Impact of Giving Students Choices

    Author: Carol A. Hurney1
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Published 03 December 2012
    • Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Biology, MSC 7801, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807. Phone: 540-568-4846. Fax: 540-568-4990. E-mail: hurneyca@jmu.edu.
    • Copyright © 2012 American Society for Microbiology
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2012 vol. 13 no. 2 133-141. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v13i2.458
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    Abstract:

    Learner-centered teaching represents more than creating a course where students are actively engaged. Rather it is articulated by a shift in the balance of power, function of content, role of the instructor, purpose of assessment, and/or responsibility for learning in a course. To make the learning environment in a large-enrollment nonmajors Biology course more learner-centered, students were given the responsibility to: 1) select course topics, 2) determine the types and weights of course assignments used to assess learning, and 3) individually decide, prior to being assigned work, the weight of exams and projects. Combined survey results from two learner-centered sections of the course (n = 137) indicate that a majority of the students found that choosing the topics enhanced their learning of course material. Students also reported that they put more effort into the parts of the course that they had weighted more heavily. In addition, results support that students are reflective of the learner-centered environment, confident in their ability to learn biological topics and more interested in biology than they thought they would be. Finally, course averages from the learner-centered courses were significantly higher than course grades from instructor-centered versions of the course.

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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v13i2.458
2012-12-03
2017-11-19

Abstract:

Learner-centered teaching represents more than creating a course where students are actively engaged. Rather it is articulated by a shift in the balance of power, function of content, role of the instructor, purpose of assessment, and/or responsibility for learning in a course. To make the learning environment in a large-enrollment nonmajors Biology course more learner-centered, students were given the responsibility to: 1) select course topics, 2) determine the types and weights of course assignments used to assess learning, and 3) individually decide, prior to being assigned work, the weight of exams and projects. Combined survey results from two learner-centered sections of the course (n = 137) indicate that a majority of the students found that choosing the topics enhanced their learning of course material. Students also reported that they put more effort into the parts of the course that they had weighted more heavily. In addition, results support that students are reflective of the learner-centered environment, confident in their ability to learn biological topics and more interested in biology than they thought they would be. Finally, course averages from the learner-centered courses were significantly higher than course grades from instructor-centered versions of the course.

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FIGURE 1

Impact of POEs on student learning in Unit 1.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2012 vol. 13 no. 2 133-141. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v13i2.458
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