Increased interactions in active learning biology classrooms: Exploring the impact of instructors using student names and student academic self-concept
Learning student names has been promoted as an inclusive classroom practice, but it is unknown whether students value having their names known by an instructor. We explored this question in the context of a high-enrollment active-learning undergraduate biology course. Using surveys and semistructured interviews, we investigated whether students perceived that instructors know their names, the importance of instructors knowing their names, and how instructors learned their names. We found that, while only 20% of students perceived their names were known in previous high-enrollment biology classes, 78% of students perceived that an instructor of this course knew their names. However, instructors only knew 53% of names, indicating that instructors do not have to know student names in order for students to perceive that their names are known. Using grounded theory, we identified nine reasons why students feel that having their names known is important. When we asked students how they perceived instructors learned their names, the most common response was instructor use of name tents during in-class discussion. These findings suggest that students can benefit from perceiving that instructors know their names and name tents could be a relatively easy way for students to think that instructors know their names. Academic self-concept is one's perception of his or her ability in an academic domain compared to other students. As college biology classrooms transition from lecturing to active learning, students interact more with each other and are likely comparing themselves more to students in the class. Student characteristics, such as gender and race/ethnicity, can impact the level of academic self-concept, however this has been unexplored in the context of undergraduate biology. In this study, we explored whether student characteristics can affect academic self-concept in the context of a college physiology course. Using a survey, students self-reported how smart they perceived themselves in the context of physiology compared to the whole class and compared to the student they worked most closely with in class. Using logistic regression, we found that males and native English speakers had significantly higher academic self-concept compared to the whole class compared with females and non-native English speakers, respectively. We also found that males and non-transfer students had significantly higher academic self-concept compared to the student they worked most closely with in class compared with females and transfer students, respectively. Using grounded theory, we identified ten distinct factors that influenced how students determined whether they are more or less smart than their groupmate. Finally, we found that students were more likely to report participating less than their groupmate if they had a lower academic self-concept. These findings suggest that student characteristics can influence students' academic self-concept, which in turn may influence their participation in small group discussion.