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Prevailing Questions and Methodologies in Biology Education Research: A Longitudinal Analysis of Research in CBE-Life Sciences Education and at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research.


Biology education research (BER) is a growing field, as evidenced by the increasing number of publications in CBE-Life Sciences Education ( LSE) and expanding participation at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER) annual meetings. To facilitate an introspective and reflective discussion on how research within LSE and at SABER has matured, we conducted a content analysis of LSE research articles ( n = 339, from 2002 to 2015) and SABER abstracts ( n = 652, from 2011 to 2015) to examine three related intraresearch parameters: research questions, study contexts, and methodologies. Qualitative data analysis took a combination of deductive and inductive approaches, followed by statistical analyses to determine the correlations among different parameters. We identified existing research questions, study contexts, and methodologies in LSE articles and SABER abstracts and then compared and contrasted these parameters between the two data sources. LSE articles were most commonly guided by descriptive research questions, whereas SABER abstracts were most commonly guided by causal research questions. Research published in LSE and presented at SABER both prioritize undergraduate classrooms as the study context and quantitative methodologies. In this paper, we examine these research trends longitudinally and discuss implications for the future of BER as a scholarly field.

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