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Biology Professors use enhancement award to test teaching techniques


teaching enhancement

(left to right) Drs. Martin St. Maurice, Michelle Mynlieff and Thomas Eddinger will use the 2011 Klingler Teaching Enhancement Award of $20,000 to study the impact of active learning techniques.

"Writing assignments with a metacognitive component enhance learning in a large introductory biology course" CBE-Life Sciences Education. Michelle Mynlieff, Anita Manogaran, Martin St. Maurice, and Thomas Eddinger.


With funding from the Way-Klingler Teaching Enhancement Award Dr.’s Michelle Mynlieff, Anita Manogaran, Martin St. Maurice, and Thomas Eddinger carried out research on transforming Undergraduate Education in Biology at Marquette University. The project was designed to objectively determine the efficacy of modified teaching methods including computer-enhanced instruction, active-learning teaching techniques and the use of writing assignments on course learning outcomes and student retention. The study was done in the large enrollment introductory Biology course. The investigators found that students who learned via peer reviewed writing assignments and that did written exam corrections performed better and retained information longer than their peers who did not participate in these interventions.


Results of the study have been published in the American Society of Cell Biology’s journal Cell Biology Education-Life Science Education.





When Tom Eddinger, professor of biological sciences, and Michelle Mynlieff, associate professor of biological sciences, began teaching General Biology 1001 in 2003, it was a traditional lecture-style class with 200-plus students in each section. After two years of focusing on rote learning and exams, the professors were convinced there had to be a better way to teach the class. Since then they have incorporated active-learning techniques, classroom response systems (clickers) and writing assignments.

As recipients of the 2011 Way Klingler Teaching Enhancement Award, Eddinger and Mynlieff, along with Assistant Professor of Biology Martin St. Maurice, will use the one-year, $20,000 award to determine if their changes have had an impact on student learning.

Anecdotal feedback from students told Eddinger the changes have been beneficial. Mynlieff’s data digs deeper. “Over the past seven years withdrawal rates in my class have decreased by two-thirds,” she said.

True to their science backgrounds, however, the professors want specifics. The grant will allow them to rotate different techniques and test their effectiveness in the three sections of General Biology. Mynlieff will also compare student data from students who took the class before and after the changes, to determine longer-term benefits.  

“It takes more time and energy to implement and prep an active classroom,” said Eddinger. The professors believe if they can show what techniques are most effective it will be easier to encourage other colleagues to use and implement different teaching techniques.


Biological Sciences Department

Marquette University, Wehr Life Sciences
(Directions/campus map)
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
(414) 288-7355