Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)


Science and Mathematics Education


Michelle K. Smith

Second Committee Member

Mindi Summers

Third Committee Member

Karen Pelletreau

Additional Committee Members

Sara Lindsay


Integrating quantitative literacy skills into the undergraduate biology curriculum has been advocated as a way to better reflect the tools and practices used by scientists. One area where students often need and can develop quantitative skills is population ecology, and previous studies have shown that students often have conceptual difficulties in this area. The focus of this thesis project was to explore student thinking about population ecology and develop an in-class active-learning lesson that incorporates quantitative skills for use in large-enrollment undergraduate biology courses. The development of this lesson was guided by in depth reviews of literature, textbooks, and online teaching materials and data gathered from assessment instruments. The lesson was designed using an iterative process involving feedback from faculty and student learning data. The result of this process was a lesson that asks students to “engage like scientists” as they make predictions, plot data, perform calculations, and interpret information to investigate how ecologists measure and model population size. The final version of the lesson was taught in three sections of a large enrollment undergraduate class at the University of Maine. The impact of the lesson was assessed using formative and summative assessments including a pre/post-test, clicker-based questions, and multiple-choice exam questions. Student performance increased following peer discussion and on post-test questions. Students also performed well on end-of-unit exam questions targeting similar concepts.