Laboratory activities are a vital component of college-level introductory biology and microbiology courses, yet there is little evidence of a standardized approach to the implementation of the laboratory section across different institution types. 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. The hypotheses for this study were: 1) Smaller institutions and community colleges are more likely to align lecture and lab topics than large research institutions and 2) Professors with a focus on teaching are more likely to align lecture and lab topics. One hundred thirty 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 data indicated a significant effect of institution type (chi 2 = 32.33, df = 16, p < 0.05) and instructor type (chi 2 = 38.07, df = 24, p < 0.05). Regional and comprehensive universities showed the highest degree of alignment among institution types (chi 2 = 15.69, df = 4, p < 0.05). Though not significant, instructors with equal teaching and research duties contribute heavily to alignment of topics (chi 2 = 8.56, df = 4, p = 0.73). Results of this study may have implications for the development of more effective curriculum practices in large research institutions that 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/8/