Discipline-Based Education Research Group



Leilani Arthurs

Date of this Version


Document Type



Presentation & Abstract for DBER Group Discussion on 2016-04-07


Copyright © 2016 Bailey Kreager and Leilani Arthurs


The number of decreasing science majors in U.S. institutions of higher education is connected to the quality of science instruction (Seymour, 1994; Daempfle, 2003) and resulted in nation-wide efforts to improve the quality of college-level science education (National Committee on Science Education Standards and Assessment et al., 1996; NGSS Lead States, 2013). This talk presents historical trends in the adoption of interactive engagement (IE) strategies in college-level science courses and presents one such IE strategy, lecture tutorials (LTs), in the context of sedimentology and stratigraphy.

To determine historical trends in the adoption of IE strategies, peer-reviewed journal articles accessible via the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) reviewed for the period of 1994-2014. The review reveals growth in IE strategy adoption, especially in the field of Biology. Five distinct types of IE strategies emerged from the literature review: polling, whole-class discussion and activities, in-class group work, out-of-class group work, and online activities. One form of in-class group work includes LTs, which are designed to improve students’ conceptual understanding. To identify weaknesses in students’ conceptual understanding of sedimentology and stratigraphy, geoscience instructors at institutions of higher education across the U.S. were surveyed. Four LTs were designed to address the identified weaknesses and tested using a quasi-experimental design, which compared the learning gains of a control group (lecture-only) with a treatment group (lecture-and-LT). Three of the four LTs produced significant learning gains above the lecture-only scenarios.

IE strategies developed in one discipline (e.g., LTs were initially developed in Physics) offer potential for their transferability to other disciplines. Although the disciplinary content and context will necessarily change, the overriding design and implementation principles developed in one discipline provide a jump start for the creation of curricular materials for similar IE strategies in other disciplines.