Frequent Testing as a Learning Tool in an Introductory Biology Course

Type of Culminating Activity

Graduate Student Project

Graduation Date


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Biology



Major Advisor

Ian C. Robertson


All Area III Core Courses at Boise State University, including Biology 100 "Concepts of Biology," are encouraged to address learning outcomes related to four key areas: critical thinking/problem solving skills, communication skills, cultural perspectives, and breadth of knowledge and intellectual perspective. After teaching Biology 100 as an adjunct instructor for the first time in the spring of 2006, I was asked to complete an assessment report on this core course as part of a university-wide assessment project. The process of completing the assessment was challenging and eye opening. I realized that although I expected my students to demonstrate critical thinking, I had focused little or no class time on the development of such skills. The assessment left me questioning the effectiveness of various teaching styles, specifically the traditional lecture and exam method. Most importantly, I wondered: "what is the best way to help students develop critical thinking skills, and how do students learn concepts and build understanding most effectively?" A workshop I attended about teaching critical thinking left me questioning my teaching methods even further, so I decided to embark on a graduate program designed to improve my understanding of biology and how to teach it effectively.