Reexamining the undergraduate introductory biology laboratory pedagogy

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


In response to COVID guidelines, a flipped laboratory learning model was implemented in an undergraduate biology laboratory curriculum. As a result, class size was decreased and the course pace was increased. Learning outcome data collected over three years compared the effects on student learning due to these changes (N=543). Owing to the decreased in-person laboratory time and increased pace of the course, student preparedness when arriving at the laboratory session was imperative to their success in learning the material and completing the laboratory exercise in the allotted time. To accomplish this goal, we improved some of the previous existing resources already in place and created a flipped laboratory method. Students came prepared for the laboratory exercise before they attended the laboratory class and were better able to achieve success possibly due to the required pre-laboratory assignments. Online video recordings of the laboratory procedures and a narrated PowerPoint that explained the concepts of the lab exercises, along with the laboratory manual and lecture material, were provided to the students before laboratory attendance and were used to complete pre-laboratory quizzes. The effectiveness of these resources and the flipped-learning pedagogy was determined using end-of-course student and faculty surveys, learning outcome data, and a teacher journal. The effect on learning outcomes using the flipped-learning model was compared to student learning outcomes in the same course in previous semesters. Faculty surveys compared observations of the students and the course pre- and post-COVID. This paper addresses how a flipped learning approach improved student preparedness by providing a flexible learning format that allowed students to become familiar with the material and the procedures before attending the laboratory class. Student preparedness using the flipped-learning model contributed to successfully increasing learning outcome scores along with the student and faculty perceptions of the class as a whole. Faculty and student surveys revealed that flipped learning and schedule changes resulted in both positive and negative student experiences, however, the majority of the findings were positive. Faculty surveys found the course design and challenges encountered to be useful in making further improvements to the course.




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