Project-based learning (PBL) and traditional teaching methods represent two opposing pedagogical philosophies. A PBL Biology lab course was designed and taught concurrently with its traditional counterpart to compare student success. The PBL course investigated the effects of simulated acid rain on the rate of adaptation in two species that differ in complexity and rate of reproduction, Caenorhabditis elegans and Paramecium caudatum. The species with the highest number of survivors at the end of six week's exposure to acid rain was deemed to have adapted best. In two out of three semesters students concluded that P. caudatum responded to acid rain with the greatest rate of adaptation. Student success was compared between both types of courses using four methods of assessment: student academic performance, retention rate, transfer rate to four-year institutions, and participation points. The results of two methods of assessment out of four were statistically significantly higher in the PBL courses. Considering that the other two methods of assessment did not favor traditional pedagogy, but produced comparable student success in the traditional and PBL courses, it can be concluded that PBL pedagogy is a highly desirable alternative to traditional teaching methods in biology courses at the community college level.
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Vol. 80 • No. 1