An investigation into ways of encouraging the development of higher level cognitive skills in undergraduate biology students with reference to the Perry Scheme of Intellectual Development
This project initially focused on a group poster presentation exercise which had the development of higher cognitive skills as its aims. A holistic approach was undertaken to the exercise which involved considering the relationship between all aspects of the instructional method with respect to the undergraduate biology students developing skills of analysis, synthesis, relating and applying knowledge, in addition, to their developing communication and group skills. The project involved modifying, monitoring and evaluating a number of different aspects of the exercise over a period of four years including the assessment and instructional methods and level of staff support given to the students. The resultant instructional method involved students working in groups on a problem based challenge, using peer group assessments and undertaking peer group questioning and discussion sessions, the implications of which are discussed in this project. A questionnaire measure of intellectual development was devised for this project, based on the Perry Scheme of Intellectual Development which aimed to investigate the different groups of students' approaches to the exercise and to match individual student's needs with the most appropriate staff support. The Perry Scheme describes how students develop from an absolute or simplistic stance on the nature of knowledge to one which is more pluralistic and contextual. These differing perceptions influence the role which students adopt and also the way in which they perceive the role of others within the learning environment. This research project tested both students undertaking the poster exercise and also students at different stages of their biology course over a period of two years. This project identified a link between the roles which students adopted during the poster exercise and their stage of intellectual development. In addition, changes in individual student attitudes and preferences towards different teaching and assessment methods were identified which supported and complimented the descriptions outlined by Perry.