New approaches to teaching revolutionize the classroom

Cornell University has invested in new pedagogical methods through their Active Learning Initiative (ALI). The ALI funds departments to work on transforming their courses to include active and engaged methods. EEB has received two of these grants, the first to transform our large gateway courses (Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity and Introduction to Ecology and the Environment) and adopt active learning methods in these large classrooms. The second grant is to study the feasibility of incorporating active learning in online courses.

We now have abundant data showing that active and team-based learning methods improve classroom climate, and make learning more accessible to all students. A recent article published in Ezra Magazine shows that students benefit from working together to solve problems, and this in turn positively affects learning and student performance.

Our Evolution course is highlighted in the active learning video. It is an exciting time to teach at Cornell!

Large classes reduce participation, especially by women

A new paper, led by Cissy Ballen (former active learning post-doc and now Assistant Professor at Auburn), just published in Bioscience! Data from a large number of classes across multiple institutions show that large classes reduce equity in classroom participation, especially by women. Active learning can make up some of that classroom deficit by making big classrooms feel smaller.

How can instructors promote equitable participation in science classrooms? Smaller classes and diverse teaching strategies play big roles.

Cornell Chronicle wrote an article about our paper.