Schussler Lab

University of Tennessee - Knoxville

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology



Our research focuses on student learning and instructional practices in introductory courses at universities.  Guided by national best practices - specifically, the AAAS recommendations contained in the "Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education" - we use our research findings to inform and improve delivery of our courses at UT, as well as those across the nation.  Recent lab projects include:

  • Comparisons of student perception of graduate teaching assistants and faculty members
  • Field-testing on-line short answer questions to probe undergraduate understanding of the biological concepts outlined in Vision and Change
  • Comparisons of student perceptions of the same TA with and without a formal mid-semester in-class evaluation
  • Observations and interviews of introductory biology course faculty undergoing curriculum reform change
  • Tracking changes in student confidence in lecture and lab classes over a semester; and identifying the nature of the "tricky" question

The current work in the lab is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (TUES program) called Concept, Competency, and Community-Driven Curriculum Reform in Undergraduate Biology Education (C3UBE). As part of this work, we have developed primary literature based and competency-driven small group discussion classes associated with our organismal / ecological, cellular / molecular, and investigative skills introductory courses. We have developed implementation guidelines for how we are integrating Vision and Change principles into our courses. We have also collected data about classroom use of active learning practices, student understanding of the Vision and Change concepts, student performance on scientific literacy skills, and instructor perception of the curriculum changes. The new course syllabi, discussion curricula, implementation guidelines, and assessment information will be stored on a Dropbox site. If you would like access to these or other project materials, you may request this information by contacting Beth at


Lab Members

Associate Professor / Director of Biology Teaching and Learning

Beth Schussler

A botanist by training, Beth crossed over into the world of Biology Education while studying for her PhD at LSU.  Before assuming the mantle of a tenure-track researcher, she worked as an Instructor, a Curriculum Designer and Administrator at a Science Center, and a Swamp Field Trip Leader!  Her main research interests are student learning in introductory courses, student perception of the learning environment, and instructor practices.  When not leading a complete overhaul of the introductory biology courses at UT, she likes to remove english ivy from her yard.  She swears she is going to learn to play the banjo one day.


Postdoctoral Associate - Biology Teaching and Learning

Sarah Dalrymple

Sarah developed a passion for teaching and an interest in biology education while getting her Ph.D. in Population Biology at UC Davis. Her dissertation research was on ant ecology, but as a teaching post-doc at UT she has shifted gears to focus on biology education research. Specifically, she is designing professional development activities to prepare TAs to teach inquiry-based introductory biology labs and will measure their effectiveness this fall. During the spring she also teaches Biology 130, Biodiversity for biology majors. When she's not teaching or thinking about teaching, Sarah is busy being a new parent while also trying to make time for her favorite hobby, rock climbing.

Sarah's web address:

PhD Graduate (defended Spring 2013)

K. Denise Kendall


Denise is a science education researcher with a strong background in the biological sciences as well as education. She takes a scientific approach to her research in order to attain a better understanding of instruction in the biological sciences. Specifically, Denise is interested in instructor professional development and student learning.

Visit Denise's web site for more about her research!

PhD Student

Anna Jo Auerbach

Anna Jo became interested in Biology Education while pursuing her MS in Educational Psychology. Her research involves investigating changes over time during curriculum reform, specifically related to instructional strategies, learning retention, and learning gains. When she is not conducting interviews and observations, she can be found on the flat track jamming for the Hard Knox Roller Girls.