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  1. Warfa, Abdi (Ed.)
    Students’ perceptions of challenges in biology influence performance outcomes, experiences, and persistence in science. Identifying sources of student struggle can assist efforts to support students as they overcome challenges in their undergraduate educations. In this study, we characterized student experiences of struggle by 1) quantifying which external factors relate to perceptions of encountering and overcoming struggle in introductory biology and 2) identifying factors to which students attribute their struggle in biology. We found a significant effect of Course, Instructor, and Incoming Preparation on student struggle, in which students with lower Incoming Preparation were more likely to report struggle and the inability to overcome struggle. We also observed significant differences in performance outcomes between students who did and did not encounter struggle and between students who did and did not overcome their struggle. Using inductive coding, we categorized student responses outlining causes of struggle, and using axial coding, we further categorized these as internally or externally attributed factors. External sources (i.e., Prior Biology, COVID-19, External Resources, Classroom Factors) were more commonly cited as the reason(s) students did or did not struggle. We conclude with recommendations for instructors, highlighting equitable teaching strategies and practices.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  2. Synopsis  Early exposure to course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) in introductory biology courses can promote positive student outcomes such as increased confidence, critical thinking, and views of applicability in lower-level courses, but it is unknown if these same impacts are achieved by upper-level courses. Upper-level courses differ from introductory courses in several ways, and one difference that could impact these positive student outcomes is the importance of balancing structure with independence in upper-level CUREs where students typically have more autonomy and greater complexity in their research projects. Here we compare and discuss two formats of upper-level biology CUREs (Guided and Autonomous) that vary along a continuum between structure and independence. We share our experiences teaching an upper-level CURE in two different formats and contrast those formats through student reported perceptions of confidence, professional applicability, and CURE format. Results indicate that the Guided Format (i.e., a more even balance between structure and independence) led to more positive impacts on student outcomes than the Autonomous Format (less structure and increased independence). We review the benefits and drawbacks of each approach while considering the unique elements of upper-level courses relative to lower-level courses. We conclude with a discussion of how implementing structured skill-buildingmore »can assist instructors in adapting CUREs to their courses.« less
  3. Andrews, Tessa C. (Ed.)
    To investigate patterns of gender-based performance gaps, we conducted a meta-analysis of published studies and unpublished data collected across 169 undergraduate biology and chemistry courses. While we did not detect an overall gender gap in performance, heterogeneity analyses suggested further analysis was warranted, so we investigated whether attributes of the learning environment impacted performance disparities on the basis of gender. Several factors moderated performance differences, including class size, assessment type, and pedagogy. Specifically, we found evidence that larger classes, reliance on exams, and undisrupted, traditional lecture were associated with lower grades for women. We discuss our results in the context of natural science courses and conclude by making recommendations for instructional practices and future research to promote gender equity.
  4. Textbooks shape teaching and learning in introductory biology and highlight scientists as potential role models who are responsible for significant discoveries. We explore a potential demographic mismatch between the scientists featured in textbooks and the students who use textbooks to learn core concepts in biology. We conducted a demographic analysis by extracting hundreds of human names from common biology textbooks and assessing the binary gender and race of featured scientists. We found that the most common scientists featured in textbooks are white men. However, women and scientists of colour are increasingly represented in contemporary scientific discoveries. In fact, the proportion of women highlighted in textbooks has increased in lockstep with the proportion of women in the field, indicating that textbooks are matching a changing demographic landscape. Despite these gains, the scientists portrayed in textbooks are not representative of their target audience—the student population. Overall, very few scientists of colour were highlighted, and projections suggest it could take multiple centuries at current rates before we reach inclusive representation. We call upon textbook publishers to expand upon the scientists they highlight to reflect the diverse population of learners in biology.
  5. Barnard, Daron (Ed.)
    National efforts to improve equitable teaching practices in biology education have led to an increase in research on the barriers to student participation and performance, as well as solutions for overcoming these barriers. Fewer studies have examined the extent to which the resulting data trends and effective strategies are generalizable across multiple contexts or are specific to individual classrooms, institutions, or geographic regions. To address gaps in our understanding, as well as to establish baseline information about students across contexts, a working group associated with a research coordination network (Equity and Diversity in Undergraduate STEM, EDU-STEM) convened in Las Vegas, Nevada, in November of 2019. We addressed the following objectives: 1) characterize the present state of equity and diversity in undergraduate biology education research; 2) address the value of a network of educators focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics equity; 3) summarize the status of data collection and results; 4) identify and prioritize questions and interventions for future collaboration; and 5) construct a recruitment plan that will further the efforts of the EDU-STEM research coordination network. The report that follows is a summary of the conclusions and future directions from our discussion.
  6. The construct of active learning permeates undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but despite its prevalence, the construct means different things to different people, groups, and STEM domains. To better understand active learning, we constructed this review through an innovative interdisciplinary collaboration involving research teams from psychology and discipline-based education research (DBER). Our collaboration examined active learning from two different perspectives (i.e., psychology and DBER) and surveyed the current landscape of undergraduate STEM instructional practices related to the modes of active learning and traditional lecture. On that basis, we concluded that active learning—which is commonly used to communicate an alternative to lecture and does serve a purpose in higher education classroom practice—is an umbrella term that is not particularly useful in advancing research on learning. To clarify, we synthesized a working definition of active learning that operates within an elaborative framework, which we call the construction-of-understanding ecosystem. A cornerstone of this framework is that undergraduate learners should be active agents during instruction and that the social construction of meaning plays an important role for many learners, above and beyond their individual cognitive construction of knowledge. Our proposed framework offers a coherent and actionable concept of active learningmore »with the aim of advancing future research and practice in undergraduate STEM education.« less