Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 347–365

Improving Biology Performance with Workshop Groups


  • Wendi K. Born
    • Department of PsychologyNorthwestern University
  • William Revelle
    • Department of PsychologyNorthwestern University
    • Department of Neurobiology and PhysiologyNorthwestern University

DOI: 10.1023/A:1020642318162

Cite this article as:
Born, W.K., Revelle, W. & Pinto, L.H. Journal of Science Education and Technology (2002) 11: 347. doi:10.1023/A:1020642318162


This 2-year quasi-experiment evaluated the effect of peer-led workshop groups on performance of minority and majority undergraduate biology students. The workshop intervention used was modeled after a program pioneered by Treisman (1992). Majority volunteers randomly assigned to workshops (n = 61) performed significantly better than those assigned to the control group (n = 60, p < 0.05) without spending more time studying. Workshop minority students (n = 25) showed a pattern of increasing exam performance in comparison to historic control minority students (n = 21), who showed a decreasing pattern (p < 0.05). Volunteers (n = 121) initially reported that biology was more interesting and more important to their futures than to nonvolunteers' (n = 435, p < 0.05). Volunteers also reported higher levels of anxiety related to class performance (p < 0.05). The relationship of anxiety to performance was moderated by volunteer status. Performance of volunteers was negatively associated with self-reported anxiety (r = −0.41, p < 0.01). Performance of nonvolunteers was unrelated to self-reported anxiety (r = −0.02). Results suggest elevated anxiety related to class performance may increase willingness to participate in activities such as workshop interventions. In addition, students who volunteer for interventions such as workshops may be at increased risk of performance decrements associated with anxiety. Even so, workshop programs appear to be an effective way to promote excellence among both majority and minority students who volunteer to participate, despite the increased risk of underperformance associated with higher levels of anxiety.

group learningbiology performanceminority groupsacademic achievementstereotyped–attitudes
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© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002