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Abstract

The decision to employ learner-centered teaching methods, teacher-centered teaching methods, or whether to integrate the two within large lecture halls in higher education continues to be heavily researched and hotly debated. All, in one form or another, have been shown effective at varying levels, throughout a myriad of disciplines and across diverse cultures. Yet there are fewer quantitative studies assessing the effects of implementing varying degrees of integrated learner-centered methods within large classroom environments. To that end, this study compared two sections of an undergraduate non-major environmental science large lecture course. One section received a minimal degree of learner-centered (MLC) instruction (<5% class time). A second section received a higher degree of learner-centered (HLC) instruction (>75% class time). Pre-test and post-test measures along with end-of-course grades were used to determine how student scores were affected by the degree of learner-centered instruction provided. Additionally, student evaluations were compared for attitudinal information. Statistical tests did not demonstrate significant differences in student scores or in student evaluations between the two groups. Yet this in itself is intriguing because: 1) the two classes were provided with different methods of post-testing; 2) the HLC class was provided with problem-based assignments while the MLC class was provided with multiple-choice ClickerTM questions; and 3) in contrast to much of the literature, this study found students’ evaluations of the MLC class were comparable to those of the HLC class; potentially demonstrating a greater level of comfort/acceptance on the part of the students to higher degrees of learner-centered instruction. This work elaborates on the findings described here and the potential implication of such findings on the evolution of best practices for large lecture classrooms.

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