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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Theme-based courses foster student learning and promote comfort with learning new material


In this article, we review the literature about theme-based teaching, then report quantitative and qualitative results from surveys from three different courses: one section of a100-level in-person art course; five sections of 300-level on-line art courses; and one section of a 100-level in-person biology course at SUNY Delhi with applied themes (“food,” “healthcare,” and “beer” respectively) in teaching and learning. Our results indicate that embedding themes across an entire course can be a successful way to improve student perceptions of their learning and comfort with learning about new subjects.  These data expand current gaps in the literature with respect to the measured benefits for students of adopting themes in college teaching and learning.  They will be useful to teachers considering the use of themes in their courses and to anyone looking for a way to help students relate to the disciplines in their courses.

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