|Ph.D Student||Tsaushu Masha|
|Subject||Reforming Teaching of an Introductory Biology Cours and|
its Impact on Learning - a Ripple Effect
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisors||Professor Tali Tal|
|Professor Emeritus Shimon Gepstein|
|Full Thesis text - in Hebrew|
The research studied the impact of a pedagogical reform in an introductory biology course (Biology 1), enrolled by biology-majors and non-majors on learning and teaching, and on students' and instructors' views. Large-lecture introductory courses rely usually on "delivering the content", a technique that has proven to be ineffective in fostering conceptual understanding. This study is framed with the view of learning as a social-constructivist activity. The instructional model gives priority to learning technology and interactions among students. It was gradually implemented during three years in the course, and in the Advanced Phase most lectures were replaced by on-going individual learning and one-month group learning of one topic, both supported by an interactive online tutorial. To the students’ assessment, we added complex open-ended questions, and we assessed the process and products of group learning. The research questions were: (a) how did the instructional change affect learning as revealed by questions students asked during lectures, and by students’ achievements in tasks requiring various thinking skills? (b) what were students' views regarding biology in general and the learning experience in the course across various model phases? (c) in what way did the instructors' teaching change across various model phases? The students who participated in the Advanced Phase outperformed their counterparts from the comparison groups in the open-ended questions as well as in the delayed post-test. No difference was found in scores of the multiple-choice questions between groups. Students reported on various factors that enhanced their deep learning: the discourse within group; the inquiry-based learning; the wrap-up presentation they prepared and presented to the entire group; the connections to their fields of interest; the meta-cognitive process they went through; and the summarizing meeting with the instructor. The instructors indicated their instructional goals were best achieved in the Advanced Phase during which the nature of student learning has changed to more active and meaningful. The instructional model created a ripple effect; its influence has spread much beyond the learning of one topic during one month. It affected the learning of other course topics, the acquisition of general skills, and various levels of meta-cognitive aspects. Moreover, the students replaced their perception of the professor as a “knowledge transmitter” to that of a researcher and a role model. These gains may contribute to the future development of life sciences majors as well as to other students who get to know biology as literate professionals.