Active Learning in STEM & Biology Learning and Teaching in the Laboratory Context

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Active Learning in STEM & Biology Learning and Teaching in the Laboratory Context

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This three-paper dissertation addresses the experience and the implementation of evidence-based learning practices in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)/biology education. Study 1 explored instructional strategies and student perceptions and preferences for various teaching practices in graduate and undergraduate classrooms across three STEM colleges. The study revealed that students desired more time for active learning practices and wanted fewer lectures than they currently experienced. Upon closer probing, findings suggest that educators should employ various active learning practices in their classrooms. Finally, the study provides suggestions for instructors teetering on the brink of adoption to leap into active learning.Study 2A and 2B narrowed the focus to learning in groups, which is the most utilized active learning strategy in biology courses. These studies examined how grouping strategies (self-selected vs instructor-assigned academically heterogeneous groups) impact first-year biology students' experience, performance, and cooperative learning participation in a biology laboratory course with extensive group work through a mixed-methods approach. There were similar effects on student perceptions from intervening in group strategies. However, students found substantial value in their group experiences in developing both academic and social skills. At the same time, students experienced diminishing concerns regarding their group members over time. When examining cooperative learning, there were many similarities but a greater frequency of cooperative learning elements when controlled for teacher's influence and the curriculum activity. There was also a small difference in the scores of assignments completed as a group. These findings in totality have implications on how instructors can best form groups that maximize student learning while improving students’ biology laboratory experience. The study findings suggest that once pedagogical approach and curriculum are controlled, there is evidence that academically heterogeneous groups, as opposed to self-selected groups, allow for more cooperative learning opportunities for first-year biology students.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2021. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisors: Bhaskar Upadhyay, Sehoya Cotner . 1 computer file (PDF); x, 194 pages.

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Gonsar, Ngawang. (2021). Active Learning in STEM & Biology Learning and Teaching in the Laboratory Context. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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