(Student Centered Activities for Large

Integrative Teaching to Develop SCALE-UP (Student Centered Activities
for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs) in General Biology I
Nora E. Demers, Charles W. Gunnels IV, and Joanna Salapska-Gelleri
Whitaker Center for STEM Education, Florida Gulf Coast University ndemers@fgcu.edu
Sample worksheet filled out by the same student after a
directed water science activity and integrative lecture.
The ultimate goal of educating students is to help create learners
with a greater appreciation and understanding of the material as
well as developing life-long learners. In our section of Biology 1 at
Florida Gulf Coast University, we attempted to enhance our
student’s scientific skill set and content knowledge as well as their
quantitative and critical thinking skills in order to improve their
success in upper division coursework. We accomplished our
goals by developing an integrative teaching approach, where we
created classes based on seamless transitions between
traditional lectures, hands-on activities, laboratory experiments,
and classroom discussions in a team-taught large-section class.
For example, hands-on activities punctuated traditional lecture
that were then enhanced with student discussion and feedback.
This integrative design allowed us to test our assumptions about
how well we covered the material through immediate feedback
using the hands-on activities and classroom discussions.
Experimental labs were used to emphasize and reinforce
concepts, but we were also vigilant to ensure that the labs also
strengthened the student’s quantitative evaluation of results as
well as developing an understanding of experimental design,
including the use of treatments and controls. 3) On-line quizzes
covering readings and labs helped ensure students came to class
prepared to learn. We gave our students an opportunity to take a
collaborative test in groups of 2-3 after completing a traditional
individual assessment. These group tests helped students solidify
their critical thinking skills via discussions to achieve a greater
understanding of the topic as well as improve their test taking
skills. The diversity of teaching styles addressed the different
learning style of students, allowing each student to benefit from
different instructional techniques. This collaboration also allowed
us, as team-teachers, to share and evaluate our favorite teaching
strategies as well as content examples, skills, and assessments.
We evaluated the effectiveness of this integrative approach
through comparison of grades and retention among different
sections of Biology 1, pre- and post-tests, student reflection of
learning, and student evaluations.
Undergraduate students at Florida Gulf Coast University, enrolled
in General Biology I, a science course for students majoring in
science and various health professions that focuses on cellular
and sub-cellular biological concepts.
SCALE-UP room - Nine tables of 9 students each
Fundamental Concepts in Biology
Chemical Properties of Water
Lecture/ Hands-On Activity Integration
Functional Groups and Organic Molecules Example
This student’s pre-test worksheet was blank.
(PowerPoint Presentation: Blue = Lecture & Red = Hands-On Activity)
Home Assignment
Pop Quiz
Students were asked to fill out the worksheet a
month after they first learned about water,
corresponding to the start of the DNA replication unit
when the biological importance of hydrogen and
covalent bonding is demonstrated.
Students’ responses on the worksheets were
evaluated by the investigators. Responses were
rated on a 3-point Likert scale ranging from 0 to 2,
where 0 indicated no response, 1 indicated some
comprehension, and 2 indicated a complete
We observed significant improvement from pre-test understanding to home assignment and pop-quiz
(p<.0001). Students who participated in an integrated lecture/ hand’s-on activity also achieved better retention
of information on the pop-quiz than a control group who were exposed solely to a traditional lecture (p<.0001).
Slide 1: Hydrocarbons consist of carbon atoms attached to hydrogen atoms.
They are very stable and form the backbone of organic compounds. Functional
groups are often covalently bonded to the hydrocarbons and are very important
in determining the chemical behavior of the molecule they are attached to.
Slide 2: During this activity you will be making a number of different functional
groups and organic molecules. You will need to use the diagrams in your lecture
notes and textbook (Chapters 4 & 5) to guide these activities. Work in groups of
three. Each of you will make each molecule unless otherwise indicated.
Slide 3: Use the ball and stick models to build a hydroxyl group (―OH) and
then diagram it (pg. 64 – 65, Fig. 4.10).
Slide 4: Hydroxyl groups are found in sugars and alcohols. One biologically
important alcohol is glycerol. It is an important building block of lipids.
Slide 5: Use the ball and stick models to build and then diagram a glycerol
molecule (pg 75, Fig 5.11). What type of macromolecule is glycerol (Chapter 5)?
You will make this again later to make your phospholipids.
Slide 6 – end: other functional group activities integrated with lecture
Notice that we standardized the lecture notes so that each hands-on activity and
classroom discussion was presented in red text. This provided the students with
an immediate clue to switch to an active strategy. This integrative approach of
bouncing between activity and lecture took over 60 minutes to cover all the
functional groups. Students seemed to appreciate the guidance of lecture as well
as the opportunity to build the molecules themselves. A worksheet with more
macromolecules to build followed the integrated lecture/activity.
We offered students the opportunity to either
take “group tests” or correct false statements
in true/false questions for bonus points on unit
exams. Students taking the “group test”
completed a second set of multiple choice
questions after taking the “individual” test. The
group tests provided students with the chance
to improve their grade slightly, but more
importantly they discussed their understanding
of the material with each other and spent more
time on task during this most critical period
immediately following a test.
It is possible to make small changes to traditional teaching strategies that result in a
more active experience for the students, which improves grades, retention, and
students experience as indicated by higher instructor evaluations. In addition,
implementation of integrative teaching strategies more appropriately addresses
diverse learning styles. Typically we used activities and classroom discussions to
introduce or reinforce information relayed in the lecture format rather than relying
wholly on activities or classroom discussions to cover the content.
A common, and appropriate concern, is that there has to be some content lost as a
result of the time allowed for students to be actively engaged during class time. We
cannot deny that some topics were not covered at all. More commonly, lost, however,
was the depth and breadth of examples used to try to explain particular concepts or
the technique that was used to convey the topic.
Activities & Labs
Groups of three students work
together on hands-on
activities and labs. Labs
organized with 3 sets of
supplies per table of 9
The investigators are grateful to the Whitaker
Center, the Creative course redesign in General
Education Faculty Grant Program at FGCU, and
Cameron Whitwright,who helped make this
presentation possible.