COS 41-7
Longitudinal study on the change in student attitudes in a biology program

Tuesday, August 6, 2013: 3:40 PM
L100E, Minneapolis Convention Center
Malin J. Hansen, Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Gulnur Birol, Science Centre for Learning and Teaching, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

While the obvious goal of undergraduate university programs is to improve students’ ability to apply discipline specific concepts and to solve problems, programs also strive to foster students’ attitudes towards the discipline and their confidence in solving discipline specific problems. Although longitudinal studies that target assessing students’ attitudes through their university education provide evidence on how attitudinal goals set by the programs are met, such studies are relatively uncommon in the Biology discipline. In this study, we followed 46 students starting from their first year in university until they finished their program.  We used a validated attitudinal survey tool called CLASS- Bio (Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey for Biology) to compare the change in students’ attitudes towards biology.


Among the seven survey categories, there were significant attitudinal shifts towards expert-like thinking for Enjoyment (77% to 87%), Connection to everyday life (77% to 85%), Problem solving-sophistication (56% to 64%), and Conceptual understanding/memorization (66% to 74%) categories. However for three of the categories the shifts were not significant: Problem solving-strategy (68% to 72%), Problem solving- effort (69% to 75%) and Reasoning (80% to 83%). When comparing the different categories, students scored 75% or lower on problem solving and conceptual understanding/memorization categories even after four years of the program while they scored well over 80% in Reasoning, Enjoyment and Connection to everyday life categories. These results suggest that this university program increases students’ enthusiasm for biology, but it does not make them confident problem solvers. In this presentation we will discuss possible reasons for these results as well as implications for teaching and program evaluation.