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Learn before Lecture: A Strategy that Improves Learning Outcomes in a Large Introductory Biology Class

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CBE - Life Sciences Education Volume 9, Number 4, ISSN 1931-7913


Actively engaging students in lecture has been shown to increase learning gains. To create time for active learning without displacing content we used two strategies for introducing material before class in a large introductory biology course. Four to five slides from 2007/8 were removed from each of three lectures in 2009 and the information introduced in preclass worksheets or narrated PowerPoint videos. In class, time created by shifting lecture material to learn before lecture (LBL) assignments was used to engage students in application of their new knowledge. Learning was evaluated by comparing student performance in 2009 versus 2007/8 on LBL-related question pairs, matched by level and format. The percentage of students who correctly answered five of six LBL-related exam questions was significantly higher (p less than 0.001) in 2009 versus 2007/8. The mean increase in performance was 21% across the six LBL-related questions compared with less than 3% on all non-LBL exam questions. The worksheet and video LBL formats were equally effective based on a cross-over experimental design. These results demonstrate that LBLs combined with interactive exercises can be implemented incrementally and result in significant increases in learning gains in large introductory biology classes. (Contains 4 figures and 3 tables.)


Moravec, M., Williams, A., Aguilar-Roca, N. & O'Dowd, D.K. (2010). Learn before Lecture: A Strategy that Improves Learning Outcomes in a Large Introductory Biology Class. CBE - Life Sciences Education, 9(4), 473-481. Retrieved October 16, 2019 from .

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