Pedagogical assessment of experimental design concepts in ecology.
Hane, Elizabeth*,1, 1 Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
ABSTRACT- Changes in curriculum or teaching approach are often made to improve student learning, and pedagogical assessment can be an important tool for determining if these changes are effective. My study has been designed to examine both changes in program curriculum and also changes in teaching approach within a single course, General Ecology. In particular, I was interested in better assessing what students understood about experimental design when they entered General Ecology, and how the active learning activities in class and lab influenced their ability to understand experimental design by the end of the course. Also, the Biological Sciences Department at RIT has recently made fundamental changes in the way that Introductory Biology is taught, including incorporation of many active learning techniques outlined in Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology and in other publications. In particular, the introductory lab has focused on student-directed experiments and observations. A key question is whether students transfer these new skills to other courses in the curriculum, such as General Ecology. General Ecology is a required course in the biology curriculum that has both a lecture and lab component, and students often take this course in their junior year. In the course, I designed a series of labs in which the students had an increasing level of responsibility for designing experiments or observational studies in lab. Concepts of experimental design were also emphasized in inquiry-based components of the course lecture. I assessed students' understanding of experimental design in using a pre- and post-test format (n = 47). Analysis of the pre-test results indicates that the best predictor of correct responses to questions about experimental design was whether the student has participated in undergraduate research (p ≤ 0.05). None of the students in General Ecology in 2005 had taken the new inquiry-based version of Introductory Biology, so these students will be a control group for comparisons in future years.
Key words: pedagogy, active learning, education
All materials copyright The Ecological Society of America (ESA), and may not be used without written permission.