Undergraduate Science Course Innovations and Their Impact on Student Learning

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

The ultimate goal of this project is to provide a synthesis of research on instructional innovations that have been implemented in undergraduate courses in physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering. We are examining the available evidence on the effectiveness of these innovations on student learning and evaluating the quality of this evidence.


Data is collected from published papers and reports.

Research Design: 

The project involves research synthesis using meta-analysis and collects data through published papers. We have developed a coding approach to capture the methodological characteristics of the undergraduate instructional innovations. Whenever possible we are calculating effect sizes based on the information provided in the papers.


The NSF-funded Undergraduate Course Innovations (UCI) research project team has analyzed the quality of studies focusing on the effects of instructional innovations in undergraduate physics education and its impact on student learning. From more than 400 papers collected, only 118 met the methodological requirements necessary to analyze the impact of instructional innovations on student learning. From the 118 papers, 150 studies (some papers report more than one study) were analyzed. Our detailed analyses of these studies indicate consistent methodological weaknesses in the way innovations are being studied. Only a third of these 150 studies (n = 51) provide evidence that can be used to quantitatively synthesize the effects of these innovations using meta-analytic techniques.

Publications & Presentations: 

Ruiz-Primo, M. A., Briggs, D., Shepard, L., Iverson, H., & Huchton, M. (2008). Evaluating the impact of instructional innovations in engineering education. In M. Duque (Ed.). Engineering education for the XXI Century: Foundations, strategies and cases (pp. 241-274). Bogotá, Colombia: ACOFI Publications.

Ruiz-Primo, M. A., Briggs, D., Shepard Lorrie, Iverson, H., Hutchton, M. (2008, June). Innovations in undergraduate science education: Lessons Learned. Invited talk as a Conference Plenary Session. International Conference of Active Learning in Engineering Education. Bogotá, Colombia.


Other Products: 

An approach to be considered when designing studies to evaluate the impact of innovation on student learning.