Course Transformation Work

Principles of Biology, BIOL 100: In recent semesters, our primary goal in transforming BIOL 100 was to increase authentic, real-word application and active learning opportunities. Thus, in Spring 2016, we set up controls, used exam wrappers, and implemented attitudinal surveys.  In Spring 2017, we designed and implemented case studies, regular group work, and scientist spotlight assignments.


Principles of Molecular and Cellular Biology, BIOL 150: An overarching goal of the transformation for BIOL 150 has been to establish course and module learning objectives and to incorporate more active learning in the course. BIOL 150 was substantially redesigned in Fall 2016 with Dr. DeVito as the instructor. In order to address course learning objectives, we implemented daily group work, clicker questions, and regular practice interpreting original data and applying the scientific method. In addition, we implemented two-stage exams to turn our exams into a learning experience, exam wrappers in order increase student metacognition and foster effective study habits, and scientist spotlight assignments to increase scientific identity.


Principles of Organismal Biology, BIOL 152: The transformation for BIOL 152 began in Fall of 2015. Across semesters, we have improved our assessment of student learning by using two-stage exams to improve content retention. We also assessed the effectiveness of our active learning activities.

Publications in Progress: DeVito Martin, S.R., Denning, K., Rivers, T.J., & Mort, M. (submitted 2017). Examining the impact of collaborative two- stage exams on content retention.

Faculty and Student Development Programs

Faculty Workshop Development: Beginning in April 2017, we began weekly workshops for faculty in biology. These workshops focused how active learning is used in biology, measuring the effectiveness of teaching strategies, and discussing how we can improve our teaching strategies.

Undergraduate Peer Leaders: In January 2017, the Biology and Engineering departments worked together to implement a training for undergraduate peer leaders and their supervising faculty. We used training modules from the Learning Assistants Program. The goal of this training was to give undergraduate peer leaders hands-on training on how to facilitate and engage students using active learning methods.

Transformation Highlight

This figure shows the grade distribution for BIOL 152 before and after the course transformation.

This figure shows the grade distribution for BIOL 152 before and after the course transformation.



Dr. Stefanie DeVito was a post-doctoral teaching fellow at the University of Kansas in the Undergraduate Biology department from 2015-2017. She worked with faculty to design and implement active learning strategies that improve students learning while also measuring the effectiveness of these new teaching strategies. Dr. DeVito earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 2015. Dr. DeVito is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Delaware.


Dr. Mark Mort is a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as beginning in Fall 2023 also serves as Associate Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence  at the University of Kansas. During the TRESTLE initiative, Prof Mort was also was an Associate Professor and an Associate Curator of Botany in the Biodiversity Institute. His research involves using molecular data to address questions of flowering plant evolution and speciation, especially species endemic to Macaronesia Canary Islands, Azores, Madeira, and Cape Verde) and South Africa. Supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, he has led numerous collecting expeditions to both of these regions to document biological diversity and obtain materials for systematic research. For the past four years he has been heavily involved in redesigning one of the large enrollment (400+ students) introductory courses for Biology majors, and has served as the faculty mentor of the Teaching Fellow in Biology.  Mark was Co-PI on the TRESTLE Project. Contact Mark Mort ( to access the repository for Biology.

Dr. Jenny Archibald is an Assistant Teaching Professor in Undergraduate Biology. Her research has focused on the patterns and processes of plant diversification, looking at closely related species and genera in study systems in North America, the Canary Islands, and southern Africa. She primarily uses molecular tools, such as DNA sequences, to investigate speciation and other aspects of evolution, but she has also examined plant-pollinator interactions and other aspects of plant reproduction in the field and greenhouse. At KU, Dr. Archibald has taught several of the large (100-400 students) introductory courses in Biology, Evolution, and upper level undergraduate / graduate discussion courses. She is involved in the continuing redesign of Biology courses to improve learning and retention for our students.