Ralph W. Preszler

Associate Professor of Biology

Program Director Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Undergraduate Science Education Program

HHMI-NMSU website http://biology-web.nmsu.edu/hhmi-program/




Ofifce Foster Hall rm. 216a

Office Phone 575 646-5346


Department of Biology, MSC 3AF

New Mexico State University

P.O. Box 30001

Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001



Research Focus Biology Education

The primary goal of my research is to develop educational theory and practice which aims to help students reach higher levels of biological literacy. Such literacy is characterized by the ability to critically evaluate, synthesize, and apply biological knowledge to personal, academic, and professional issues. This has led to projects involved in the design and assessment of specific techniques used within courses, as well larger scale educational reform in three areas: biology teaching laboratories, workshop biology courses, and science education outreach programs for K-12 students.


For many years I have been involved in the design and implementation of inquiry-based laboratory activities. Traditional laboratory activities tend to emphasize the development of studentís ability to observe and describe biological phenomena. Inquiry-based exercises allow students to participate in a wider range of scientific processes from hypothesis formation, through designing and conducting experiments, to forming and discussing the implications of their conclusions. The results of some of this work has been published through the Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE).


I have conducted experiments evaluating the effectiveness of small group activities which supplement large lecture courses. These projects have involved the development and assessment of cooperative learning, concept mapping, student- in contrast to instructor-centered activities, and interdisciplinary supplemental instruction. In the Spring of 2007, with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Undergraduate Science Education Program, we have replaced one of the weekly lectures in our introductory biology courses with a required workshop. These workshops are facilitated by peer instructors. While in the workshops, cooperative groups of students work on case studies as well as activities designed to build the general learning skills. This novel course structure has improved learning of students in all demographic groups. The improved student learning has been greatest for under-represented minority and female students (see Preszler 2009 in the Fall issue of CBE: Life Sciences Education).


Recent Presentations

Preszler, R.W. 2009. Case studies in peer-facilitated workshops. The 31st Annual Conference of  the Association for Biology Laboratory Education. University of Delaware, Newark, DE.


Preszler, R.W. 2008. Workshop biology: revising the structure of general biology to promote student learning. National Association of Biology Teachers Professional Development Conference; Memphis, Tennessee.


Preszler, R.W. 2007. Experimental designs that provide instructors with informative comparisons of alternative teaching strategies while providing students with equivalent experiences. 51st Annual Meeting of the Association of College and University Biology Education, Dubuque, IA.


Recent Publications

Preszler, R.W. 2009. Replacing lecture with peer-led workshops improves student learning. CBE: Life Sciences Education. Reprints will be available at Available at http://www.lifescied.org/ .


Preszler, R.W., A. Dawe, C. Shuster, and M. Shuster  2007. Clickers: assessing their effects on student attitudes and student learning in biology lectures. CBE: Life Sciences Education 6: 29-41; reprinted in CBE: Life Sciences Education Highlights of the 2007 Issues pp. 39-51. Available at http://www.lifescied.org/ .

Preszler, R.W. 2006. Student- and teacher-centered learning in biology workshops. Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching 32: 21-25.

Preszler, R.W. and A. L. Marion   2006. Personal behavior and partnerís sexual history: a simulation of the spread of HIV. in Tested studies for laboratory Teaching, Volume 27, (S. Karcher, Editor). Proceedings of the 27th workshop/conference of the association for biology laboratory education (ABLE). Available at http://www.ableweb.org/ .


Preszler, R. W. 2004. Cooperative concept mapping improves performance in biology. Journal of College Science Teaching 33: 30-35.