Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Armstrong, Sonya L.

Second Advisor

Lampi, Jodi P.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Curriculum and Instruction (CI)


College completion is an important discussion in today’s world with only about 30% of community college students completing their degrees within three years of starting their programs. Especially in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields, students are changing their majors or not completing their degrees for a variety of reasons. Previous research has established that there are high attrition and failure rates for introductory biology courses which may be causing some students to change their majors or not complete their degrees. This multicase study investigated the reading and task demands for introductory biology courses designed for STEM majors at community colleges in a Midwestern state. By better understanding the reading and task demands for this specific discipline, the teaching and learning instruction can be improved for biology professors, developmental educators, and first-year college students. Data sources included interviews with biology professors and documents collected from the professors such as syllabi and sample tests, quizzes, and laboratory materials. Data analysis included both content analysis and transcript analysis. Analysis of the data indicated that the professors viewed biology as a broad discipline with a wide range of options for students to study. In addition, there are disciplinary specific reading aspects that students should be made aware of to focus on in their biology assignments, as well as a variety of purposes for reading the various texts assigned in the introductory biology course. Finally, the wide range of tasks expected for the course are all designed to improve learning but may need to be scaffolded and explained to help students understand the expectations and purposes of each task.


158 pages




Northern Illinois University

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In Copyright

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NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

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