Laboratory activities are a vital component of college-level introductory biology and microbiology courses, and the attitudes of instructors teaching the laboratory section of introductory biology courses can have a significant effect on not only the structure of the course, but student outcomes and experiences. Kolb’s experiential learning cycle suggests student understanding of complex scientific topics progresses from abstract conceptualization, to active experimentation, to concrete experience, and finally reflective observation. Alignment of topics between the lecture and lab may assist students in making meaningful connections between abstract concepts studied in lecture and their concrete experience in the laboratory. Instructor attitudes toward the importance or necessity of alignment may influence not only the alignment of topics, but completion of the experiential learning cycle as well. The hypotheses for this study were: (1) Instructors at smaller institutions such as liberal arts college and community colleges are more likely to agree that alignment of topics is important and necessary (2) Instructors with a focus on teaching are more likely agree that alignment is important and necessary. Ninety-two introductory biology, microbiology, cell biology, environmental biology, and other biology instructors from various institution types were surveyed to determine the degree of alignment between lecture topics and lab activities in their courses. A chi-square test of association on self-reported attitudes of introductory biology instructors towards the importance and necessity of alignment of topics indicates a significant effect of institution type (Importance: χ2=9.51, df=4, p=0.049), and (Necessity: χ2=15.76, df=4, p=0.003). A chi-square test of association on self-reported attitudes indicated a significant effect of instructor type with respect to the importance (χ2=13.09, df=6, p=0.042), but not necessity (χ2=10.46, df=6, p=0.107) of topic alignment. Results of this study may have implications for development of more effective curriculum practices at a variety of institutions and with various instructor types that may assist students in completing the experiential learning cycle that may lead to improved student learning outcomes and retention of students in biology and microbiology courses.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/heidi-eisenreich/3/