The purpose of this study was to take a case study approach to exploring student learning experiences in a large enrollment introductory biology class. Traditionally such classes are taught through the lecture method with limited instructor-student interaction and minimal student-centered learning (Lewis & Woodward, 1984; Wulff, Nyquist, & Abbott, 1987). Biology 120 taught at Brigham Young University winter semester 2006 by John Bell was chosen as the case for the study due to its large enrollment (263) and its innovative pedagogy. In the classroom, students applied their learning through a variety of student-centered activities including solving problems, discussing concepts with peers, drawing diagrams, and voting. Outside of the classroom students were assigned, in addition to reading from the textbook and homework problems, to teach each week's concepts to another student. Formative feedback was emphasized in classroom activities and through a unique assessment system. Students took self-graded weekly assessments designed to provide regular and timely feedback on their performance. The only traditionally-graded assessment was the final exam. Students were expected to understand, apply, and think analytically with their knowledge and this was reflected in the assessment items. Student learning, as measured by a pretest and a posttest, increased from an average of 44% correct to 77% correct on a set of 22 items common to both tests. Responses to pre and post-surveys indicated that students increased in their orientation towards understanding as apposed to grades during the course. Qualitative data suggested that during the course many students deepened their learning approach and increased in feelings of personal control over their learning.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Instructional Psychology and Technology



Date Submitted


Document Type





feedback, assessment, large-enrollment, biology, formative