Designing Lab Groups in Introductory Biology to Support Student Learning and Experience

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Megan Barker, Department of Biological Sciences

Project team: Tanya Tan, research assistant

Timeframe: March 2017 to May 2019

Funding: $6000

Course addressed: BISC 100 – Introductory Biology

Description: The goal of this project is to evaluate the impact of lab group composition on student learning (performance), confidence in lab skills, and perception of group work by systematically investigating the question of group composition, to rationalize and possibly improve our group-forming process.

Questions addressed:

  • What is the impact of group composition for high-, medium- or low-prepared students on student performance, confidence in lab skills, and group experience?
  • What kinds of teams do students choose when they self-select their lab groups and why?

Knowledge sharing: We plan on presenting our findings at the Teaching & Learning Symposium (presentation by RA; workshop on group composition), Teaching Matters series, and dissemination to colleagues at a departmental seminar (by RA or ourselves). More informally (and often more impactful) - this course has a rotation of lab instructors who work on this course and others in our department. We work together to continually improve the course, and often ideas propagate through the department this way. Through discussion with the co-instructors, any relevant findings and recommendations are likely to be used further in this course and elsewhere.

In addition, we would like to present our findings possibly at the First Year Experience conference, and possibly SABER (Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research) and Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE). If the findings are substantial, we would also like to produce a publication.