The impact of different instructional strategies on students’ understanding about the cell cycle in a general education biology course
This study investigated the impact of different instructional strategies on students’ understanding about the cell cycle in a general education biology course. Although several studies have documented gains in students’ cell cycle understanding after instruction, these studies generally use only one instructional method, often without a comparison group. The goal of this study was to learn more about students’ misconceptions about the cell cycle and how those ideas change after three different evidence-based learning experiences in undergraduate general education. Undergraduate students in six laboratory sections (n = 24; N = 144) in a large public institution in the western United States were surveyed pre- and post-instruction using a 14-item valid and reliable survey of cell cycle knowledge. Cronbach’s alpha for the standard scoring convention was 0.264 and for the alternate scoring convention was 0.360, documenting serious problems with inconsistent validity and reliability of the survey. Operating as though the findings are at least a proxy for actual cell cycle knowledge, score comparisons by groups of interest were explored, including pre- and post-instruction differences among demographic groups of interest and three instructional settings: a bead modeling activity, a role-playing game, and 5E instructional strategy. No significant differences were found across groups of interest or by strategy, but some significant item-level differences were found. Implications and discussion of these shifts is noted in lieu of the literature.