The Effect of a Paired Lab on Course Completion and Grades in Nonmajors Introductory Biology
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AbstractThis 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)?
PublisherAmerican Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)