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Improved Success for Black and First Generation Undergraduates in Active Learning Course

The CBE-Life Sciences Education journal has recently published a study that resulted in improved success for black and first generation undergraduates who have a more activate role in class. Six semesters of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s introductory biology class (~400 students per class) were studied. Three of classes studied were simple lecture-based courses where students were not held accountable for coming to class prepared. The other three classes had an active learning approach which involved more in-class activities completed through teamwork, online exercises, and assigned textbook reading in order to prepare students for class. Overall, active learning improved test scores and significantly increased the number of students who passed exams. Specifically, for black and first generation active learners, exams scores increased by six percent. Additionally, the score gap between first-generation students and other students was not present for courses with an active learning structure. Students in the active learning classes were more likely to complete textbook readings, dedicate more hours on coursework, participate more in class, and view class as a community. These findings suggest that an active learning course structure improves student academic success and accomplishment particularly for students who are from an under-resourced background.

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