Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Heather Johnson (Director), Dr. Larry Alice, Dr. Shivendra Sahi

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


“Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.” - Chinese Proverb. Involvement in learning implies possessing skills and attitudes that permit students to seek resolutions to questions and issues while constructing new knowledge.

Low enrollment in Plant Biology and Diversity and upper level plant science courses has been noticed at Western Kentucky University. In addition, graduating students performed below the national average on the senior assessment examination in the area of botany content knowledge offered by WKU’s Biology Department. This may be due to the fact that observation-based botany has been taught in a traditional way for biology majors at our university for many years. Traditional teaching methods include viewing prepared slides of plant sections, viewing live and herbarium specimens, and memorization of botanical terminology and illustrations.

The goal of this study is to convert these existing traditional laboratories to investigative inquiry exercises without compromising the material covered by bringing observation-based labs into the twenty-first century.

Various teaching strategies including inquiry, problem-based, case-based, and hands-on learning methods were implemented. Each exercise was reshaped around a central question or theme. These changes were expected to increase student learning and retention levels.

Traditional teaching methods were used with the control group, while contemporary teaching strategies were used with the experimental set of students. Traditional assessments and anonymous surveys were statistically analyzed. The results of my analyses suggest that the experimental students were more challenged, interested, intellectually stimulated and less overwhelmed with contemporary teaching strategies and overall had higher learning retention demonstrated by their performance on assessments.

Moreover, I predicted that an investigative approach will encourage larger numbers of students to take this restricted elective sophomore-level course for biology majors and further their study in plant biology.


Biology | Botany