Active learning increases performance in STEM courses, but many instructors are hesitant to adopt active-learning practices because they are afraid students will have negative attitudes toward them. It was hypothesized that students whose first college biology experience was in a course that used active learning would have more positive attitudes toward active learning than students who initially experienced a traditional lecture-based course. Students in an introductory Cell Biology course were queried regarding their attitudes toward active-learning practices used in the class. Responses to a Likert-scale survey indicated that students had positive attitudes toward active learning, and an analysis of variance indicated that there were no significant differences between the attitudes of students who had previously taken a lecture-based biology course at the same institution, students who had previously taken a biology course at another institution, and students who were enrolled in Cell Biology as their first college biology experience (n = 52, P = 0.530). Students strongly favored active-learning techniques over passive techniques but were less convinced of their learning benefits. Experienced students indicated that they preferred the teaching methods used in Cell Biology over the techniques used in their prior biology course. The results indicate that in the context of a small classroom setting, most students have positive attitudes toward active learning regardless of their prior biology lecture experiences.

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