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 March 2020

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.

Final report: Read Megan Barker's final report (PDF)

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 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.

Barker, M. K., Tan, T. Y., Barley, E., & Sharp, J. (2019, July). Can we influence student success in groupwork? The impact of lab group composition on student outcomes. Poster presented at the 9th Annual Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER) Meeting, July 26 - 28, 2019, Minneapolis, MN, USA.

Barker, M. K., & Tan, T. Y. (2019, July). Can we facilitate student success in group work? The impact of lab group composition on student outcomes. Presentation at the Western Conference for Science Education (WCSE), July 3–July 5, 2019, London, Ontario.

Keywords: group work, laboratory science, lab groups, lab team, team-based learning, quasi-experimental design, student confidence