1887

Measuring and Advancing Experimental Design Ability in an Introductory Course without Altering Existing Lab Curriculum

    Authors: Ryan A. Shanks1,*, Chuck L. Robertson2, Christian S. Haygood1, Anna M. Herdliksa1, Heather R. Herdliska1, Steven A. Lloyd2
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of North Georgia, Dahlonega, GA 30597; 2: Department of Psychological Science, University of North Georgia, Dahlonega, GA 30597
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 20 June 2016 Accepted 14 December 2016 Published 21 April 2017
    • ©2017 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Supplemental materials available at http://asmscience.org/jmbe
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: University of North Georgia, Department of Biology, 82 College Circle, Health & Natural Sciences, Dahlonega, GA 30597. Phone: 706-864-1368. Fax: 706-867-2703. E-mail: ryan.shanks@ung.edu.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1194
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    Abstract:

    Introductory biology courses provide an important opportunity to prepare students for future courses, yet existing cookbook labs, although important in their own way, fail to provide many of the advantages of semester-long research experiences. Engaging, authentic research experiences aid biology students in meeting many learning goals. Therefore, overlaying a research experience onto the existing lab structure allows faculty to overcome barriers involving curricular change. Here we propose a working model for this overlay design in an introductory biology course and detail a means to conduct this lab with minimal increases in student and faculty workloads. Furthermore, we conducted exploratory factor analysis of the Experimental Design Ability Test (EDAT) and uncovered two latent factors which provide valid means to assess this overlay model’s ability to increase advanced experimental design abilities. In a pre-test/post-test design, we demonstrate significant increases in both basic and advanced experimental design abilities in an experimental and comparison group. We measured significantly higher gains in advanced experimental design understanding in students in the experimental group. We believe this overlay model and EDAT factor analysis contribute a novel means to conduct and assess the effectiveness of authentic research experiences in an introductory course without major changes to the course curriculum and with minimal increases in faculty and student workloads.

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2017-04-21
2017-10-17

Abstract:

Introductory biology courses provide an important opportunity to prepare students for future courses, yet existing cookbook labs, although important in their own way, fail to provide many of the advantages of semester-long research experiences. Engaging, authentic research experiences aid biology students in meeting many learning goals. Therefore, overlaying a research experience onto the existing lab structure allows faculty to overcome barriers involving curricular change. Here we propose a working model for this overlay design in an introductory biology course and detail a means to conduct this lab with minimal increases in student and faculty workloads. Furthermore, we conducted exploratory factor analysis of the Experimental Design Ability Test (EDAT) and uncovered two latent factors which provide valid means to assess this overlay model’s ability to increase advanced experimental design abilities. In a pre-test/post-test design, we demonstrate significant increases in both basic and advanced experimental design abilities in an experimental and comparison group. We measured significantly higher gains in advanced experimental design understanding in students in the experimental group. We believe this overlay model and EDAT factor analysis contribute a novel means to conduct and assess the effectiveness of authentic research experiences in an introductory course without major changes to the course curriculum and with minimal increases in faculty and student workloads.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1

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FIGURE 1

Timeline of the comparison group and experimental group with identified key components of inquiry-based learning. Both comparison and experimental groups completed a 15-week semester lab in an introductory biology course with pre-test and post-test EDAT evaluations. Labs that remained the same between the comparison and experimental groups are bolded. The comparison group did not hold lab (NL) on the first and last week and also one holiday-interrupted week (HD). The experimental group did not take comprehensive lab exams (LE). The experimental group conducted an overlaid experiment of their own design during the semester that maps onto the key features of inquiry-based learning (key features adapted from Pedaste et al. 2015) ( 16 ).

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1194
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Analysis of pre-test and post-test EDAT evaluation in experimental (black) and comparison (grey) groups. Significant pre-test to post-test differences were observed in the composite EDAT scores (A), basic understanding factor loadings (B), and advanced understanding factor loadings (C) (* < 0.05). Significant experimental to comparison group differences were observed in the composite EDAT scores (A) and advanced understanding factor loadings (C) (# < 0.05), but not in the basic understanding factor loadings (B) ( > 0.05). Error bars represent standard error of the mean; EDAT = experimental design ability test.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1194
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