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Georgia Journal of Science

Abstract

The Thayer method of instruction is a little-known active learning technique that dates back to 1817 at the U.S. Military Academy. This study describes the implementation and statistical evaluation of an adaptation of the Thayer method in a variety of college science and math courses. All courses had five characteristics in common: (i) students were given a daily reading schedule and instructed to prepare before class, (ii) each class started with a question and answer session, (iii) class time minimized the use of lecture, (iv) class time maximized the use of active learning, and (v) students were frequently quizzed. A total of 51 sections across chemistry, biology, math, and physics taught by eight professors involving 542 students were used. Students were surveyed at the beginning and the end of the semester on their attitudes toward teaching methods using a 5-point Likert scale. The data were analyzed using the nonparametric Wilcoxon rank-sum test. The results show three outcomes: (i) students prefer the modified Thayer method over a traditional lecture method, (ii) students report feeling more encouraged to stay in college, and (iii) students report no difference in the amount of time that they spend on reading or working on problems. These three results are encouraging amid efforts to educate and retain STEM students. The modified Thayer method should be considered by those using or seeking to use an active learning technique.

Acknowledgements

We thank the School of Science and Technology at Georgia Gwinnett College for funding this project through the University System of Georgia STEM Initiative II grant.

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