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Thesis Defense: Ally Ryan

February 23 @ 9:00 am11:00 am

Alexandra Ryan

Candidate for Master of Science in Teaching

Friday, February 23, 2024, 9:00 a.m.
Estabrooke Hall 113 and Zoom

Haiku and Human Anatomy: Investigating Students’ Experience With Creative Writing to Learn Structure and Function in an Undergraduate Biology Course


In the field of biology education research, there have been several reform movements to enrich learning, prepare students to be biologically literate citizens, and give them the skills to pursue a career in science if they choose. The integration of arts and humanities into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses, the writing-to-learn movement, and the Vision and Change report published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011 are three prominent efforts that have helped to refine biology education and deepen student learning (AAAS, 2011; NASEM, 2018; Gere, 1985). This thesis combines these three major movements in the Structure and Function Haiku Assignment, a creative writing assignment centered around one of the core concepts for undergraduate biology education (structure and function) identified in the Vision and Change report (AAAS, 2011). 

Recognizing that student affect has been shown to influence motivation and learning outcomes (Quillin & Thomas, 2015; Tokan & Imakulata, 2019), this thesis investigates how students in an undergraduate Human Anatomy class report their experience completing the Structure and Function Haiku Assignment. This provides insight into students’ affect and attitudes toward completing a creative assignment in a STEM course.

Results indicated that the majority of students enjoyed the assignment and found it to be a useful learning and review tool. Student-reported emotions indicate a generally positive affect surrounding the assignment, which could correlate to improved motivation and learning outcomes. Students reported using a balance of creative and course content related thinking to complete this assignment. Based on student responses, it was concluded that The Structure and Function Haiku Assignment is a learning and review tool that can be utilized by educators looking to build an integrated STEAM curriculum aligned with current standards of biology education.

Committee Members: Dr. Sara Lindsay, Dr. Heather Falconer, Dr. Franziska Peterson

Friday, February 23, 2024, 9:00 a.m.: Estabrooke Hall 113 (Fireside Conference Room) and Zoom:


February 23
9:00 am–11:00 am
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