Teaching and Learning: A Two Way Street

TitleTeaching and Learning: A Two Way Street
Duration1 Year
Project Summary

The failure rate for students taking second year life sciences courses is much higher than those in first year. In particular, the first year biology failure rate is about 3% while in second year it is 20-25%. This project will determine which major factors hinder students' ability to pass second year life sciences courses in biology and chemistry and suggest new learning and teaching strategies to alleviate the problem.

Rationale: Teachers provide students with the initial strategies for understanding a subject. These initial approaches, developed in high school, may not appropriate at more complex levels of learning. Although still somewhat appropriate for first year level courses, these high school strategies do not facilitate success for students in second year courses. By observing the learning processes of students and the teaching strategies of faculty, we hope to identify less successful learning and teaching strategies for mastering university level biology and chemistry course content.

This pilot project will seek to identify teaching and mastery problems of first and second year content by studying students and faculty in first and second year biology and chemistry courses.

The objectives are:

  1. Determining what learning and knowledge assumptions are made by instructors teaching first and second year biology and chemistry courses.
  2. Assessing student approaches to mastery of material. Classroom participant-observation and student focus groups will be used to ascertain what types of problems students have and what methods they use to overcome them.
  3. Results will be presented and discussed in workshops involving students, TAs and instructors. Discussion and conclusions will be reported through various channels including websites, journals and distributed to students through their undergraduate society.
Funding Details
Year 1: Project YearYear 1
Year 1: Funding Year2001/2002
Year 1: Project TypeSmall TLEF
Year 1: Principal InvestigatorCyprien Lomas
Year 1: Funded Amount49,500
Year 1: Team Members

Cyprien Lomas, Educational Technology Coordinator, Office of the Dean, Faculty of Science
Joanne Nakonechny, Research Associate, Faculty of Science
Jim Berger, Zoology, Faculty of Science
Ian Cavers, Associate Dean, Curriculum, Faculty of Science