The design, implementation and assessment of a novel, two-track, reformed introductory biology sequence are described in this paper. Course reform was based on the recommendations by the 2009 Vision & Change report from AAAS. Both tracks were based on guided inquiry, with an emphasis on constructivist pedagogy. One track included only students entering college with Advanced Placement Biology credit (N=24), who were given a studio style course that focused on the investigation of the phenomenon of “vanishing amphibians,” from molecules to ecosystems, over the entire year. The other track included the remaining students (N=68), who received more direct content instruction but through the use of numerous student-centered, active learning methods. The “AP Scholars” section entered with higher and more consistent levels of prior knowledge, but both sections made identical normalized learning gains and expressed satisfaction with the course, particularly the reformed aspects. The “AP Scholars” identified strongly as scientists and enjoyed the investigative nature of the course. The two-track course is now in its second year, and changes are being made in accordance with the lessons learned from the first year. This two-track system could serve as a model for other institutions looking to change their introductory biology sequence.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit


Document Type

Conference Paper

Department, Program, or Center

Thomas H. Gosnell School of Life Sciences (COS)


RIT – Main Campus