• The Effect of a Paired Lab on Course Completion and Grades in Nonmajors Introductory Biology

      DeFeo, Dayna Jean; Bibler, Andrew; Gerken, Sarah (American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), 2020-08-21)
      This paper explores the effect of a paired lab course on students’ course outcomes in nonmajors introductory biology at the University of Alaska Anchorage. We compare course completion and final grades for 10,793 students (3736 who simultaneously enrolled in the lab and 7057 who did not). Unconditionally, students who self-select into the lab are more likely to complete the course and to earn a higher grade than students who do not. However, when we condition on observable course, academic, and demographic characteristics, we find much of this difference in student performance outcomes is attributable to selection bias, rather than an effect of the lab itself. The data and discussion challenge the misconception that labs serve as recitations for lecture content, noting that the learning objectives of science labs should be more clearly articulated and assessed independent of lecture course outcomes. This paper explores the effect of a paired lab course on students’ course outcomes in introductory biology for nonmajors at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), a large, open-enrollment, 4-year university. We compare outcomes for 10,793 students, 3736 who simultaneously enrolled in the lab and 7057 who did not, and analyze the degree to which they select into the lab on observable characteristics to explore the following research questions: 1. Are students who take a paired lab more likely to complete the lecture component (i.e., receive a final grade as opposed to withdrawing or receiving an Incomplete)? 2. Are students who take a paired lab more likely to receive a higher grade in the lecture component? 3. Does the laboratory experience differently affect course outcomes for students in specific demographic subgroups (e.g., gender, race, high school urbanicity, age, prior academic performance, and socioeconomic status)?
    • Mediating Students’ Fixation with Grades in an Inquiry-Based Undergraduate Biology Course

      DeFeo, Dayna Jean; Tran, Trang C.; Gerken, Sarah (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2020-09-29)
      The paper analyzes focus group data to explore student perceptions of an inquiry-based undergraduate biology course. Though the course was designed to mimic the scientific process by incorporating uncertainty, peer review, and self-reflection, students came to class focused on getting As and with a developed schema for didactic instruction and passive learning. They perceived the autonomy and self-directedness of the learning experience as a threat to their grades, and responded with strategies that protected their grades and ego, but were deleterious to learning. Students could identify merits of the inquiry-based approach; however, they made clear: they prioritized grades, and were unwilling to trust an unfamiliar pedagogy if they perceived it jeopardized their grades. In the framework of self-regulated learning, the discussion considers how to scaffold students to foreground learning over achievement.