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Addressing Instructional Challenges Identified by Teaching Assistants to Improve Outcomes for Undergraduate Students in an Introductory Biology Lab

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abstract
This study explored learning outcomes in the biology department of a private, suburban, liberal arts institution with an undergraduate enrollment of about 4,800 students. Graduate student teaching assistants (TAs) are the primary instructors in four introductory biology labs. These TAs routinely report that undergraduate students in their labs are not meeting course objectives, but it has been unclear which objectives students miss and how frequently this occurs. It is also unknown whether these “gaps” in student learning are primarily due to (1) misconceptions or (2) holes in the knowledge and skills of undergraduate students or similar problems with TAs. This study aimed to address these issues by giving TAs a scenario-based survey on instructional challenges that asked them to rate how frequently they saw various gaps in student learning. This information was used to design an instructional plan that addressed these gaps and supported TAs by providing them with relevant content and pedagogical knowledge. This study showed that student understandings’ of the nature of science (NOS) increased, and students’ acceptance of responsibility for their work and performance decreased in the course in which the instructional plan was implemented. The impact on students’ higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) was inconclusive, likely due to differences in how students were prepared for HOTS assessments. Future improvements to the instructional plan should include adding more explicit instruction in three areas: key elements of the NOS, effective study methods, and the HOTS assessments used in the course.
subject
biology lab
higher order thinking skills
nature of science
science education
student responsibility
teaching assistants
contributor
Martin, Jessica Blackburn (author)
Johnson, A. Daniel (committee chair)
Pratt, Wayne E. (committee member)
date
2016-05-21T08:35:28Z (accessioned)
2018-05-20T08:30:11Z (available)
2016 (issued)
degree
Biology (discipline)
embargo
2018-05-20 (terms)
identifier
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/59261 (uri)
language
en (iso)
publisher
Wake Forest University
title
Addressing Instructional Challenges Identified by Teaching Assistants to Improve Outcomes for Undergraduate Students in an Introductory Biology Lab
type
Thesis

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