September 10, 2018

Interpretive Summary: Identifying the optimal course delivery platform in an undergraduate animal behavior research course.

Interpretive Summary: Identifying the optimal course delivery platform in an undergraduate animal behavior research course.

By: Surely Wallace

In an August 2018 article published in Translational Animal Science, researchers studied the outcomes of three pedagogical approaches on student outcomes in an undergraduate animal behavior research course.

Active learning can be an effective approach to achieving desired student outcomes across many fields, including STEM. Active learning engages students in their own learning, and may be potentially more effective than traditional, passive learning courses. However, this benefit should not be generalized to all academic fields as it may vary across teaching disciplines.

In this study, a total of 178 undergraduate students attended a one-credit undergraduate animal behavior research course entitled, “Wild Discoveries: Zooming into the Scientific Method.” The course was offered 10 times over 2 years at both the University of Florida and Santa Fe College. One of three learning methods was used each time the course was offered: traditional (passive learning), online, and flipped format (a type of active learning).  Within this two year period, the traditional course format was taught 3 times, the online format was taught 3 times, and the flipped format was taught 4 times. One instructor taught all courses. A positive outcome was indicated when a teaching style was associated with improved student grades or critical thinking scores on the Cornell Critical Thinking Test (CCTT).

Student grades were based on weekly quizzes, assignments, a written final report and poster presentation of student research projects, and class attendance, which were consistent and worth an equal percentage of grade points across all three teaching formats.

Results indicated there were significant differences between student outcomes with teaching format types. At the University of Florida, grades for assignments and final written reports were higher for the flipped and online course, compared to the traditional course. At Santa Fe College, grades for assignments, final written report, and poster were higher in flipped and traditional courses. Magnitude of change between pre- and posttest CCTT scores however were not significantly different in comparisons made across the three pedagogical types.  

Overall, this study suggests there may be a benefit to incorporating flipped format (active) learning styles into an undergraduate animal behavior research course. However, more research needs to be done to confirm and reproduce these findings. This study was additionally limited to two universities, one professor, with the study population including 78.7% females and 21.3% males. Determining the potential benefit of active learning in an undergraduate research course would greatly benefit from expanded studies across more schools with a varied student population, in order to better understand effects of active learning methods versus online and traditional passive learning on student outcomes.

To view the full article, “Identifying the optimal course delivery platform in an undergraduate animal behavior research course,” visit Translational Animal Science.