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Biology Professors will use enhancement award to test teaching techniques

 

teaching enhancement

(left to right) Drs. Martin St. Maurice, Michelle Mynlieff and Thomas Eddinger will use the 2011 Klingler Teaching Enhancement Award of $20,000 to study the impact of active learning techniques.

When Tom Eddinger, professor of biological sciences, and Michelle Mynlieff, associate professor of biological sciences, began teaching General Biology 1001 in 2003, it was a traditional lecture-style class with 200-plus students in each section. After two years of focusing on rote learning and exams, the professors were convinced there had to be a better way to teach the class. Since then they have incorporated active-learning techniques, classroom response systems (clickers) and writing assignments.

Now, as recipients of the 2011 Way Klingler Teaching Enhancement Award, Eddinger and Mynlieff, along with Assistant Professor of Biology Martin St. Maurice, will use the one-year, $20,000 award to determine if their changes have had an impact on student learning.

Anecdotal feedback from students told Eddinger the changes have been beneficial. Mynlieff’s data digs deeper. “Over the past seven years withdrawal rates in my class have decreased by two-thirds,” she said.

True to their science backgrounds, however, the professors want specifics. The grant will allow them to rotate different techniques and test their effectiveness in the three sections of General Biology. Mynlieff will also compare student data from students who took the class before and after the changes, to determine longer-term benefits.  

“It takes more time and energy to implement and prep an active classroom,” said Eddinger. The professors believe if they can show what techniques are most effective it will be easier to encourage other colleagues to use and implement different teaching techniques.

Eddinger, Mynlieff and St. Maurice will develop course material this summer and test the techniques in the fall. Data from next fall will be evaluated in spring 2012, and, if appropriate, the professors will report their results in journals and at conferences.



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