This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Course Elements that Impact Performance and Behavior in Undergraduate Science Classes




Odom, Sara

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Biological Sciences


Using evidence-based approaches to teaching can help instructors and institutions improve student experiences in the classroom. By understanding the ways that different classroom environments and activities impact students, instructors can design curricula that maximize positive student outcomes and provide equitable educational experiences. While a variety of teaching strategies and classroom changes have been proposed to improve student engagement and performance, there remains the question of how effective these changes are, and who benefits from them. In chapter one, I investigated gender disparities in undergraduate life science classes. Using a meta-analytic approach, I analyzed performance differences between men and women’s exam scores, course grades, and concept inventories in a variety of different classroom settings. I found a statistically significant gender gap with a small effect size, with men overperforming relative to women within life science classes. However, the degree of difference was affected by class size, pedagogy, assessment type, and pedagogy, with the most dramatic gender gaps found in exam scores. In chapter two, I investigated student engagement within lecture-based introductory science classes. I used galvanic skin response readings as a biometric measure of student engagement and compared responses to various class activities. I found that students were most engaged during clicker questions. Together, this research identifies effective instructional approaches, including a reduced reliance on high-stakes exams, and the integration of active learning elements, such as clicker questions. Research into the forces that drive gender disparities in science courses will inform evidence-based teaching practices that promote equitable student outcomes.