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Current Projects

Our research focuses on instructional practices and student perception of instructional practices in introductory courses at universities. Guided by national best practices – specifically, the AAAS recommendations contained in the “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education” – we use our research findings to inform and improve delivery of our courses at UT, as well as those across the nation.  Recent lab projects include:

  • Class observations and interviews of introductory biology course faculty undergoing a Vision and Change curriculum reform
  • Assessing student gains and retention of scientific literacy as a result of a Vision and Change curriculum reform
  • Assessing student engagement in introductory courses in relation to active learning practices
  • Tracking student perceptions of anxiety as a result of active learning in the classroom

The current work in the lab is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (TUES program) called Concept, Competency, and Community-Driven Curriculum Reform in Undergraduate Biology Education (C3UBE). As part of this work, we have developed primary literature based and competency-driven small group discussion classes associated with our organismal / ecological, cellular / molecular, and investigative skills introductory courses. We have developed implementation guidelines for how we are integrating Vision and Change principles into our courses. We have also collected data about classroom use of active learning practices, student understanding of the Vision and Change concepts, student performance on scientific literacy skills, and instructor perception of the curriculum changes. The new course syllabi, discussion curricula, implementation guidelines, and assessment information will be stored on a Dropbox site. If you would like access to these or other project materials, you may request this information by contacting Beth at eschussl@utk.edu.

The lab also has a long-standing interest in research on teaching professional development (TPD) for biology graduate students. This research has been boosted by an NSF Research Coordination Network Undergraduate Biology Education grant to form a national network of individuals who want to improve TPD for GTAs (Biology Teaching Assistant Project; BioTAP).

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