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Science  23 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6148, pp. 823
DOI: 10.1126/science.341.6148.823-b

Traditional classrooms, where rows of students face an instructor, may be an obstacle as science education moves toward inquiry-based learning. However, is reconfiguring these classrooms to encourage active and team-based learning worth the cost? Looking at introductory biology courses where the same syllabus, exams, and instructors were used, Cotner et al. compared student performance in a traditional (TC) versus active learning classroom (ALC). Observational data was collected on 50% of randomly selected students in both classrooms, with the amount of time appearing to be “on task” and actions of both the instructor and the students being recorded. Additionally, students responded to a survey detailing their experiences and perceptions once the course had finished. Results showed that the same instructor spent more time encouraging and consulting in group activities in the ALC environment than in the TC setting. ALC students reported a higher level of engagement and more room flexibility in regard to in-class activities and perceived a higher alignment between the room and the course itself than did their counterparts in the TC. Taken together, the results show that students in an ALC are able to outperform their peers in a TC, suggesting that ALC environments positively enhance student learning and are worth the investment.

J. Coll. Sci. Teach. 42, 82 (2013).

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