Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Cynthia Littlejohn, MA

Advisor Department

Biological Sciences

Abstract

As instructors begin to devote more time to improving student perceptions of biology, the validity of these efforts should be determined. Do students possessing favorable views of biology regularly perform on a higher level than those with less favorable impressions, or would class time be better spent without exercises intended to increase student interest? The goal of this project was to address the research questions “How do students view the study of biology?”, “How do student perceptions of the subject area affect their performance in an Introductory Biology course?”, and “How does a student’s chosen area of study affect their perceptions of biology?” This was accomplished through the use of 19-item, Likert-type survey questionnaires intended to assess how undergraduate students in an Introductory Biology course at the University of Southern Mississippi perceived the subject of biology. Surveys administered as part of this project focused primarily on how students view the subject of Biological Sciences as a whole.

Although educators often believe that students who have positive opinions of a subject will demonstrate higher levels of performance, little data has been collected to support this assumption. Bernot and Metzler (2014) concluded that “In lectures, students can become passive recipients of information, not engaged in the learning process” (p.48). Student passivity may be viewed as a sign of low interest or negative perceptions of the subject. Working under the idea that interested students receive higher grades, students expressing disinterest in the subject should consequently receive lower course scores. However, if no statistically significant correlation has been demonstrated between student interest and success, then time spent attempting to improve student perceptions of the subject may be better allocated to other classroom endeavors. Research on the relationships between student perceptions and v performance in introductory courses for Sociology, Accounting and Chemistry provide a framework of background information to pave the way for studies of a similar type in the area of Introductory Biology.

The subject group for this study was composed of undergraduate students enrolled in one of two course sections of BSC 110: Principles of Biological Sciences I at the University of Southern Mississippi during the Spring 2017 semester. Surveys were designed to address student perceptions of Introductory Biology courses and the study of biology in general. Study participants were asked to indicate if they were enrolled in the College of Science and Technology, College of Arts and Letters, College of Business, College of Health, College of Nursing, College of Education and Psychology, or had not yet chosen a major to ascertain if major choice influenced their perception of the subject.

Based upon the results of this study, it appears that statistically significant relationships exist between student perceptions of biology and their performance in Introductory Biology Courses as well as between students’ majors and how they perceive the subject.

Included in

Biology Commons

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