Campus Units

Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, Natural Resource Ecology and Management

Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Journal of Biological Education




Complementing biology lecture courses with laboratory sections is nearly universal at undergraduate institutions, yet many topics in biology do not easily lend themselves to experiment-based laboratory activities. Topics such as comparative anatomy, evolution, and systematics are often taught as passive, observation-based laboratories. In this experiment, we modified and tested the efficacy of a team-based learning approach called the “Jigsaw” method in 14 sections of an undergraduate Vertebrate Biology laboratory course at Iowa State University. Specifically, we implemented the modified Jigsaw method in seven lab sections and taught seven lab sections in the traditional lecture and observation style, comparing mean quiz score between the experimental and control sections after accounting for variation due to instructor and year. We revealed significantly higher average quiz scores for students in the experimental sections as compared to the control sections. Herein, we describe the details of our modified Jigsaw implementation that can be applied to other such biology laboratory courses. Thus, we provide further support for the use of team-based learning approaches such as the Jigsaw method and specifically show that undergraduate biology laboratory courses can be improved by implementing such activities in lieu of a clear experimental approach to laboratory courses.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Baken, Erica K., Dean C. Adams, and Michael S. Rentz. "Jigsaw method improves learning and retention for observation-based undergraduate biology laboratory activities." Journal of Biological Education (2020). doi: 10.1080/00219266.2020.1796757. Posted with permission.

Copyright Owner

Royal Society of Biology



File Format


Available for download on Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Published Version