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Wednesday, June 22 • 11:15 - 12:15
CON01.02c - Scale Up or Change Your Teaching? Analysis of Large Classes in Biology

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How exactly can we make a large class feel small? How can a statistical model help us navigate this problem? This two-part study surveyed student and instructor perspectives on class size and engagement in an undergraduate biology curriculum, then quantified the resources and teaching structure of these classes using a multivariate statistical analysis. In part one, the survey-results indicated both students and instructors identified large classes as being impersonal and classified using extrinsic qualifiers. Conversely, small classes were classified in terms of the students personal learning experience and relationships fostered through the class, suggesting that these experiences are lacking in larger ones. Survey results also indicate that the perceived threshold of a large class is beyond 250 students. But does our teaching and resource allocation change significantly beyond this enrollment level?

In part two, we will explain how exactly a principal components analysis organizes data of this type, then visually demonstrate how classes around this 250-student threshold are managed differently. The results provide a detailed map of institutional change in teaching structure and resource allocation as class sizes rose between 2010 - 2014 at a Canadian university. In general, some classes rearranged their teaching strategies and resources at this 250-student mark, while others inflated the same resources. But is one method more effective at reaching and engaging students?

Student presenter Ceilidh Barlow Cash will ask you to Think, Pair, Share and surprise you with 100 year-old data about university teaching. The session provides an up-to-date view of student engagement and empowerment in undergraduate biology classes, and validates the use of a principal components analysis for even more exciting questions in higher education.

avatar for Ceilidh Barlow Cash

Ceilidh Barlow Cash

Ceilidh Barlow Cash is a graduate of the Bio-Medical Sciences program at the University of Guelph. She was a nominee for the 2013 3M National Student Fellowship and is currently a higher education blogger with OOHLALA Mobile in Montreal.

Steffen Graether

Steffen Graether is an Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Guelph. His education research revolves around finding effective ways to teach large classes and how to evaluate successful learning. His biochemistry research centers... Read More →

Shoshanah Jacobs

Dr. Shoshanah Jacobs is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph. Her research focuses on knowledge translation and transfer.

Additional Authors

Jessa Letargo

Jessa Letargo is a graduate from the University of Guelph. She is currently studying in the Physicians Assistant Education Program at McMaster University.

Wednesday June 22, 2016 11:15 - 12:15 EDT