Author ORCID Identifier

Heather E. Bergan-Roller:

Document Type



Instructors want students to be prepared for class. There are several different resources and activities available to help students prepare for class, but very little is known about how students choose to prepare for class in the context of undergraduate biology. In this study, we used content analysis to investigate what students do to prepare for an introductory biology course, and if and how that preparation differed under two different conditions. Students were either directed to search out and choose their resources to prepare for class (choice treatment) or assigned specific pages from a textbook (text treatment). Students in the choice treatment reported preparing for class slightly more often than students in the text treatment, with both groups reporting that they prepared for over three-quarters of classes. However, students assigned specific textbook passages engaged more while preparing than students who had to find their resources. The textbook was a popular resource but second to websites for students who got to choose. Students in both groups performed similarly in the course. This work helps instructors understand what their students may be doing to prepare for class. We provide recommendations to guide instructors on how to help their students prepare for class.

Publication Date


Original Citation

Ballard, T.G, Sattar, S.U, Wright, K.G, Sabel, J.L., Bergan-Roller, H.E. 2021. Preparing for class: resources and actions of introductory biology students. Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education.


Department of Biological Sciences

Legacy Department

Department of Biological Sciences



Rights Statement

In Copyright



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.