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Elisabeth Schussler


Research Interest

Instructional practices, introductory biology, GTAs, professional development


1997 - Ph.D., Louisiana State University


The development of effective undergraduate educational practices is reliant on empirical data about teaching and student learning; research in my lab employs qualitative and quantitative research methods to collect these data.

The primary research focus of my lab is the shaping of undergraduate learning environments to foster meaningful student learning. Although learning environments are organized around specific curricula, the effectiveness of the curriculum is often impacted by the instructor and/or student perception of the instructor. Much of my lab’s research has focused on this interplay between curricula and the instructor and how it affects student learning.

Some lab research specifically informs teaching professional development (TPD) for biology graduate teaching assistants. We have found, for example, that student perceptions of GTAs change over the semester, are impacted by the title the GTA uses with their students, and are linked to particular teaching behaviors that can predict perception of teaching effectiveness. These lines of research led to the creation of an NSF-funded research coordination network (BioTAP) focused on improving GTA TPD. BioTAP members have co-published a national survey on the state of GTA TPD at institutions across the US and Canada and proposed a conceptual model for conducting research on GTA TPD programs, which is used as part of the BioTAP Scholars program.

Lab members have also been involved in a large-scale curriculum reform project at UT funded by an NSF TUES grant. This project took a community approach to aligning a new introductory biology sequence with recommendations from the Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education report. Implementation of this new curriculum has resulted in improved student scientific literacy and increased use of active learning by instructors of the lecture classes. More recent research has explored student reports of anxiety in response to the use of active learning in these courses, focusing on how this anxiety may impact student performance in the courses and persistence in the biology major.


Visit Google Scholar for more publications:

• England, BJ, JR Brigati, EE Schussler. 2017. Student anxiety in introductory biology classrooms: Perceptions about active learning and persistence in the major. PlosONE 12(8): e0182506.
• Auerbach AJ and EE Schussler. 2017. A Vision and Change Reform of Introductory Biology Improves Faculty Perceptions and Use of Active Learning. CBE Life Sciences Education 16, article 57.
• Dalrymple, SD, AJ Auerbach, and EE Schussler. 2017. Taking a community approach to curriculum development. International Journal of Scholarship in Teaching and Learning 11(2), article 5.
• Auerbach AJ and EE Schussler. 2017. Curriculum Alignment with Vision and Change Improves Student Scientific Literacy. CBE Life Sciences Education 16, article 29.
• Auerbach, AJ, and EE Schussler. 2016. Instructor Use of Group Active Learning in an Introductory Biology Sequence. Journal of College Science Teaching 45(5): 67-74.
• Reeves, TD, G Marbach-Ad, KR Miller, J Ridgway, GE Gardner, EE Schussler, and EW Wischusen. 2016. A Conceptual Framework for Graduate Teaching Assistant Professional Development
Evaluation and Research. CBE Life Sciences Education 15: 1-9.
• Schussler, EE, Q Read, G Marbach-Ad, K Miller, and M Ferzli. 2015. Preparing Biology Graduate Teaching Assistants for their Roles as Instructors: An Assessment of Institutional Approaches. CBE Life Sciences Education 14: 1-11.
• Kendall, KD, D Dittrich-Reed, M Niemiller, and EE Schussler. 2014. Helping graduate teaching assistants in biology use student evaluations as professional development. American Biology Teacher 76(9): 584-588.
• Bautista, NU, EE Schussler, and SM Rybczynski. 2014. Instructional experiences of graduate assistants implementing explicit and reflective introductory biology laboratories. International Journal of Science Education 36(7): 1184-1209.
• Kendall, KD and EE Schussler. 2013. Evolving Impressions: Undergraduate Perceptions of Graduate Teaching Assistants and Faculty Members over a Semester. CBE Life Sciences Education 12: 92-105.

Contact Information

  • 402A Hesler
  • Mailing Address: 569 Dabney Hall, 1416 Circle Dr, Knoxville, TN 37996
  • Phone: (865) 974-6825
  • Fax: (865) 974-4057
  • E-mail:
  • Lab Website