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Elisabeth Schussler

Associate Professor, Director of Biology Teaching and Learning

Research Interest

Undergraduate biology education


1997 - Ph.D., Louisiana State University


Undergraduate biology education and biology GTA professional development

The development of effective 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 creation of undergraduate learning environments that 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 the research in my lab has focused on this interplay between reformed curricula and the instructor and how it affects student learning.

Recent research has focused specifically on biology graduate teaching assistants as instructors in undergraduate classes. Graduate student Denise Kendall conducted several studies highlighting the different perceptions students have of GTAs versus faculty, and how this may impact introductory courses. This line of research led to the creation of an NSF research coordination network (BioTAP) to form a national network focused on GTA professional development in the context of biology graduate education.

The lab is also in the midst of assessing changes, aligned with the recommendations from the Vision and Change report, faculty are making to the introductory biology sequence at UTK.  Supported by an NSF TUES grant, members of the lab are providing curriculum and professional development support, monitoring implementation, and collecting data on student learning and perceptions of learning.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. The effect of instructor title on student instructional expectations. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 8(1): Article 10.
  • Kendall, KD and EE Schussler. 2013. More than words: Probing the terms undergraduate students use to describe their instructors. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 25(2): 200-212.
  • Kendall, KD, M Niemiller, D Dittrich-Reed, LD Chick, L Wilmoth, A Milt, M Burt, N Lopes, L Cantwell, L Rubio, A Allison, and EE Schussler. 2013. Departments Can Develop Teaching Identities of Graduate Students. CBE-Life Sciences Education 12(3): 316-317.
  • Rybczynski, SM and EE Schussler. 2013. Effects of Instructional Model on Student Attitude in an Introductory Biology Laboratory. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 7(2):
  • Schussler, EE, NU Bautista, MA Link-Pérez, NG Solomon, and BA Steinly. 2013. Instruction Matters for Nature of Science Understanding in College Biology Laboratories. BioScience 63(5): 380-389.
  • 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.
  • Kendall, KD and EE Schussler. 2012. Does Instructor Type Matter? Undergraduate Student Perception of Graduate Teaching Assistants and Professors. CBE-Life Sciences Education 11: 187-199.

Contact Information

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