This project is testing the hypothesis that a highly structured course design, developed and tested in one quarter of the 3-quarter introductory biology sequence for majors at the University of Washington (UW), can be implemented by instructors who teach introductory biology at three institutions diverse as to mission (from community college to an R1 institution) and class size (from 40 to 700).
Intellectual merit: Recent work by this group (Haak et al (2011) Science 332 1213-1216,www.sciencemag.org/content/332/6034/1213.abstract) has shown that the highly structured course design--which combines intensive active learning in lecture-free class sessions with daily and weekly formative assessments in the form of on-line quizzes--increased overall student performance and lowered the achievement gap between students from disadvantaged versus advantaged backgrounds.
Broadening participation: The current goal is to determine if the course materials can produce similar results in the hands of other instructors, working with other student populations (at Eastern Michigan and Eastern Washington Universities and at Everett (Washington) Community College). The course content at these institutions overlaps completely or substantially with Biology 180 at the University of Washington, the course that is already supported with evidence-based, high-structure materials. When the project is completed, data will be available from institutions ranging from selective to open enrollment, from R1s to community colleges, and with class enrollments from 700 to 40. The efficacy of the materials in the hands of an instructor with minimal teaching experience-specifically--a post-doctoral research associate or a newly hired, tenure-track research faculty member of the UW Department of Biology--is also being investigated within the same course to enable comparison of materials on performance in the same student population, when delivered by experienced versus inexperienced faculty.