John Fisher, a biology professor and associate dean for agriculture and life sciences at BYU-Idaho, has always wanted to be a teacher. Fisher received his Ph.D. in anatomy and cell biology from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.

Cody Diehl, a biology professor that works on campus, received his Ph.D. in biomedical sciences at the University of California, San Diego, California. Diehl loves to learn and finds it rewarding. He also enjoys helping others in their careers.

Fisher and Diehl are two of several professors in the biology department who are constantly working on their efforts to improve the success rate of their students in several of the hardest classes offered on campus, based on class throughput.

Throughput is the number of students who successfully pass the class. Their goal is to ultimately help struggling students succeed.

In this effort to find success, the biology department created the teaching sheet. Teaching sheets are a tool that puts the aspect of teaching one another from BYU-I’s learning model into practice. Essentially, it is a study guide that instructs students to teach concepts multiple times to different people before they take a test.

Teaching sheets allow students to take ownership of the material they are learning in class and implement it on a deeper level.

“The teaching sheets are an assignment we’ve created that allows students an opportunity to show what they know and what they do not know before an exam,” Fisher said.

The discovery of this tool began with an experiment by Fisher with struggling students from BIO 264, human anatomy and physiology, to see if they could lift a student’s success by a reasonable amount. He found and invited several students who met specific criteria to join a special section.

If they joined, the professors introduced different ideas to them to help these students understand the material. After several failed attempts, Fisher introduced this concept of teaching one another by requiring students to teach the material using nothing but a whiteboard, piece of paper or a blank screen.

After figuring out some logistics, the struggling students began outperforming every other section of BIO 264, thus helping them achieve an aspect of their goal.

“It helps them understand the commitment, the level of work ethic required of college students earlier on,” Diehl said. “So that they learn by good experience instead of by bad experience.”

Fisher went on to explain that the teaching sheets put into practice at least three different learning strategies.

  1. Drawing to know it: The student begins with virtually
    nothing. A blank slate of sorts and they draw it out. They tell
    the story of what they have learned in class and how it operates.
  2. Repeating: Students teach the material 5-10 times and sign
    it off to give accountability, with one of those signatures being from a
    TA, professor, or tutor.

    According to Fisher, through this method, they teach the material so much that
    “it activates the Hippocampus [which] helps convert short-term memories
    into long-term ones.”

  3. Applying the tutoring effect: When someone teaches any
    material, they become like a tutor. In its basic form, the tutor learns
    the material better than the students, since a tutor has gathered enough
    information to be able to explain and answer questions to the individuals
    they are teaching.

Fisher and Diehl continued to express that there could be an application for this new style of learning in most classes. They stated that professors, like Jason Hunt and Jason Shaw in the biology department, have implemented similar style tactics in a 400-level course and have found success with their students’ comprehension.

They saw students who embraced the concept asking their professors for teaching sheets in classes where it is not implemented and/or required. Moving forward, Fisher and Diehl plan to provide less structured teaching sheets toward the end of the semester in their class. This way the students can learn to make their own teaching sheets by transferring these learning skills into any class moving forward.

Additional information about teaching sheets with statistical evidence will be released once the information is ready by Fisher and Diehl at a later date.

For more information about this method, contact John Fisher and Cody Diehl using their faculty contact information on the BYU-I Faculty Biology Department’s website.