Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Brian R. Belland


Brian R. Belland


M. David Merrill


Yanghee Kim


J. Nichols Eastmond


Anne Hunt


One learning problem is that public understanding of science is limited. Many people blame at least part of the problem on the predominant lecture approach for students' lack of science understanding. Current research indicates that more active instructional approaches can improve student learning in introductory undergraduate biology courses. Active learning may be difficult to implement because methods and strategies, ranging from in-class collaborative problem-solving to out of class multimedia presentations, are diverse, and sometimes difficult to implement. Merrill's First Principles of Instruction (hereafter referred to as "First Principles" or "First Principles of Instruction") provides a framework for implementing active learning strategies.

This study used First Principles of Instruction as a framework for organizing multiple active learning strategies in a web-based module in an introductory biology course. Participants in this exploratory study were university students in Life Sciences 1350, an introductory biology course for nonscience majors. Students were randomly assigned to use either the module using First Principles of Instruction (hereafter called the First Principles module) or the module using a more traditional web-based approach (hereafter called the traditional module) as supplementary instruction.

The First Principles module implemented several active learning strategies and used a progression of whole problems and several demonstration and application activities to teach the topic of "microevolution," defined as the study of how populations evolve and change over time. The traditional module implemented a more traditional web-based approach, providing information and explanations about microevolution with limited examples. This exploratory study's results showed that the learning gain from pretest to posttest at the remember level was significant for the traditional group at alpha = .05 and was significant for the First Principles group at alpha = .1. In addition the pretest to posttest gain at problem solving for the First Principles group was significant at alpha = .05. When students rated their confidence in solving future problems, those in the First Principles group were significantly more likely to predict future success at alpha = .1.




This work made publicly available electronically on April 11, 2011.