BS in Biological Sciences
Biological Sciences Department
Experiment was an assessment of the efficacy of two different teaching styles: traditional lecturing and a question based approach. In a traditional lecture class students frequently come to class with little or no previous exposure to the lecture topic. This may limit comprehension, retention, and the development of critical thinking skills. The questioning approach we used involved flipping the classroom where students were expected learn the lecture material at home by answering a comprehensive list of questions from textbook chapters. They were expected to come to each class period prepared to engage in a discussion of the subject matter, prompted by similar questions from the instructor. Our hypothesis was that the questioning/discussion format would improve comprehension, retention, and the development of critical thinking skills as well as improve focus of students during the class period. We expected that students would spend more time out of class mastering the material that they do in a traditional lecture class. Our experiment involved two sections of an upper division Evolution class (BIO 414) where one section was a control and taught through lecturing and the other the questioning approach. After the halfway mark the classes switched modes to give each section exposure to both modes of instruction and to limit bias (because every class is different). Success of the teaching style was gauged by formal assessments (weekly quizzes and tests) and informal classroom observations such as texting, talking, and asking higher-level questions. Formal assessments showed marginal differences between instructional modes, which may have been due to structural issues with the way we executed the experiment. However, students reported studying 2x as much outside of class during the questioning mode. Results also showed that students in the questioning mode were more attentive, texted less, and had more questions during the class period. Student surveys also showed that the students knew that the questioning method was better for their learning regardless of whether they preferred that mode.