The Aspects of Active-Learning Science Courses That Exacerbate and Alleviate Depression in Undergraduates

Tala Araghi, Carly A. Busch, Katelyn M. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


College science courses continue to transition from traditional lecture to active learning, which has been shown to have both alleviating and exacerbating effects on undergraduate mental health. Notably, existing studies have primarily examined the relationship between active learning and anxiety, and no studies have specifically assessed the relationship between active learning and depression. To address this gap, we conducted hourlong exploratory interviews with 29 undergraduates from six institutions who identify as having depression and who had been enrolled in at least one active-learning college science course. We probed how undergraduates’ depression affects their experiences in active learning, and in turn, what aspects of active-learning practices exacerbate or alleviate students’ depressive symptoms. Students described that their depression negatively impacted their cognitive domains, which could make learning and social interactions challenging. Additionally, we found that the underlying aspects of active-learning practices that impact students’ depression fall into four overarching categories: opportunities to compare oneself with others, socializing with others while learning, frequent formative evaluation, and engagement in learning. Each of these aspects of active learning could alleviate and/ or exacerbate depressive symptoms. This work supports recommendations to create more inclusive active-learning courses for students with depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22:ar26
JournalCBE life sciences education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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