Shifting to Active Learning: Assessment of a First-Year Biology Course in South AfricaReport as inadecuate

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International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, v27 n2 p261-274 2015

Large first-year class sizes have resulted in many lecturers adopting coping strategies consisting of direct-transmission mode teaching, reduced practical time, and assessment. Recently several strategies have been implemented in an attempt to improve student participation and active learning; however, these changes have to be facilitated and fostered by faculty and administrators. Consequently, we present the implementation, results, and feedback of a new Biology first-year course run for the period 2005-2008. In this course, the number of lectures was reduced, and the number of more co-operative tutorial and practical-based sessions was increased. The aim of these changes was to promote active participation of students and to encourage them to take responsibility for their own learning. Despite some initial problems, most students and staff were positive about the learning experience, and the skills developed were considered of value to other science courses. Other courses are encouraged to follow this example and move to a reduced lecture and increased interactive tutorial/workshop and practical approach to promote student learning and development.

Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Active Learning, Undergraduate Students, College Students, Biology, Course Evaluation, Program Implementation, Educational Change, Tutoring, Student Participation, Learning Experience, Skill Development, Educational Benefits, Lecture Method, Mathematics Achievement, Student Attitudes, Scores

International Society for Exploring Teaching and Learning. Web site:

Author: Downs, Colleen T.; Wilson, Amy-Leigh


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