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BIT 410/510 Structure

Setting the Stage for High Structure Courses

Studies have shown that high structure courses benefit student learning, particularly for those from underrepresented backgrounds. However, it is unclear if students understand the importance of frequent assignments to their learning. We collaborated with our learning technology office to develop short reflective videos that introduce students to the high structure format, its benefits, and how to scaffold workload. These videos are designed for students to interact with during the first few weeks of the course to provide students with the appropriate context to be successful and embrace the high structure format.

A high-impact practice in effective and equitable teaching is to provide students with a highly-structured active learning classroom format. This type of classroom environment requires students to regularly interact with the course material through many low-stakes assignments spread throughout the course, also known as “high structure” (Crimmins & Midkiff, J Chem Ed, 2017; Smith et al, Amer J of Phys, 2018; Hogan & Sathy, Inclusive Teaching, 2022). STEM education research has demonstrated the effectiveness of this strategy not only in improving student academic outcomes, but also promoting an equitable and inclusive classroom environment for all students. Many courses in the interdisciplinary Biotechnology Program (BIT), follow the high structure model. In this model, our courses have regular low-stakes weekly assignments for both lecture and lab, as well as several longer-term projects individually and in groups. This affords the opportunity to provide students with frequent feedback, which bolsters student understanding while increasing long-term memory. Moreover, utilizing high-impact practices, such as high-structure with active learning, connects directly into the new campus QEP of Learning By Doing. The challenge, however, is that many students are unfamiliar with this style of teaching and struggle to manage their time to stay on top of the workload. In a previous DELTA collaboration, we created an interactive roadmap to help students keep track of tasks. While the roadmap was helpful, students remain reluctant to embrace regular assessments in such a high-structure course, as they do not realize the benefits to their learning. Our proposal aims to address this issue by producing an interactive resource to explain the theory behind high-structure courses, as an expository and motivational tool for students. We envision students interacting (i.e. watching and/or listening while selecting on-screen options) with the resource prior to the start of class, as advanced preparation and framing for the course structure, as well as potentially mid-semester to remind them of the purpose of the intentional course design. We anticipate that this tool will increase student motivation and engagement in our course as well as other courses across campus utilizing high-impact teaching practices in alignment with NC State’s QEP of Learning By Doing

Eddy, S.L. & Hogan, K.A. (2017). Getting Under the Hood: How and for Whom Does Increasing Course Structure Work? CBE—Life Sciences Education, 13(3).  

Freeman, S., Haak, D., & Wenderoth, M.P. (2011). Increased Course Structure Improves Performance in Introductory Biology. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 10(2), 175–186. 

Crimmins, M.T. & Midkiff, B. (2017). High Structure Active Learning Pedagogy for the Teaching of Organic Chemistry: Assessing the Impact on Academic Outcomes. Journal of Chemical Education, 94(4), 429–438. 

Pastötter, B. & Bäuml, K.T. (2014). Retrieval practice enhances new learning: the forward effect of testing. Frontiers in Psychology, 5. 

Bae, C.L., Therriault, D.J., & Redifer, J.L. (2019). Investigating the testing effect: Retrieval as a characteristic of effective study strategies. Learning and Instruction, 60, 206-214.