Date of Award

Summer 8-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Chair

Dr. Jake Schaefer

Committee Chair School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Member 2

Dr. Mac Alford

Committee Member 2 School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Member 3

Dr. Glenmore Shearer

Committee Member 3 School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Member 4

Dr. Sherry Herron

Committee Member 4 School

Center for Science and Math Education

Committee Member 5

Dr. Aimee Thomas


Large enrollment introductory-level courses with high rates of students receiving a D, F, or withdrawing have been identified within higher education as gateway courses. Students not successfully completing these courses are disproportionately represented by historically and continually marginalized populations, such as low-income, poorly represented ethnic groups, and first-generation students. A form of blended learning called the flipped class model is becoming increasingly prevalent in gateway courses. A flipped class design may reduce the cognitive load by allowing time for processing information before class while cooperative learning may result in a collective working memory effect where social interactions may serve to fill in gaps in knowledge and preparedness. However, this can be difficult to implement in large-enrollment courses.

This study focused on the efficacy of a flipped class intervention, combined with the implementation of a Learning Assistant model, at increasing student success in a high enrollment, introductory-level biology course. Student success was measured by comparing mean exam scores and DFW rates (percentage of students earning a D, F, or, withdrawing) for course sections taught in a traditional didactic style to those of course sections employing a flipped class design. Student perceptions of personal learning gains were explored through the implementation of a Student Assessment of Learning Gains survey utilizing Likert-type and open-ended questions. Data revealed a significant increase in exam score means for course sections taught with a flipped class design compared to those taught traditionally. No significant difference was observed for overall DFW rates between course designs, nor did course design produce a significant difference in DFW rate when controlling for Pell grant eligibility or first-generation status. However, the analysis uncovered a significant interaction between course design and ethnic groups for reported DFW rates. Evaluation of survey responses showed a significant increase in mean response scores for questions related to the perceived benefits of active learning and cooperative learning on understanding and overall learning gains for flipped class sections compared to traditional sections. A thematic analysis of open-ended survey responses yielded an overall pervasive theme of group work with tightly related sub-themes of cooperative learning and activities.