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