PS 82-88 - Creating active learning modules to incorporate statistics and experimental design across life sciences curricula though a Faculty Learning Community

Friday, August 12, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Harmony J. Dalgleish, Department of Biology, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, Sally M. Chambers, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN and Nancy C. Emery, Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Our goal was to promote the adoption of active learning strategies for experimental design and statistical analysis in the undergraduate classrooms in life sciences. We participated in a Faculty Learning Community (FLC) supported by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Education award at Purdue University. FLCs provide a mechanism to support faculty in adopting and implementing new teaching techniques. Here, we present two of the products developed from our experience.


Discussions within the FLC and a campus-wide workshop on resulted in a list of eight specific learning outcomes for statistics and experimental design that we wished to achieve through our learning modules. Each member of the FLC developed their own module that addressed one or more of these learning outcomes. Here, we present our ecologically focused module centered on tallgrass prairie restoration that targets three learning outcomes: 1) Interpreting and communicating data using appropriate graphical methods, 2) Proposing testable hypotheses, and 3) interpreting both the statistical and biological significance of results. Using a peer-reviewed journal article, students explore the effects of seasonal burning on tallgrass prairie plant communities. Students create their own graphs using data from the published tables. They then interpret their own figures along side those from the paper in order to propose their own hypotheses about the effects of season of burn at a local prairie restoration. We present ways the module could be used in different class settings. Finally, we discuss the FLC as a model that could be adapted to address similar goals at other institutions.

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