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Assistant Professor of Biology
Worcester State College
486 Chandler St.
Worcester, MA 01602
(508) 929-8143

Biographical Sketch
I am starting my third year at Worcester State College, which is part of the Massachusetts State College system. I teach a 200-level Genetics course that is required for all Biology majors and represents a large portion of my teaching responsibilities.  I also teach an upper level Developmental Biology course, a capstone Biology Seminar, and Introduction to Biology II: Cellular and Molecular Biology. My research interests focus on how RNA processing drives early developmental events.  I am also involved in our Center for Teaching and Learning as an Advisory Board member, as a co-facilitator of Alden Teaching Fellows cohort on technology in teaching, and as an Advisory Board member for the online journal Currents in Teaching and Learning.

My Biology Scholars Research Project


Title: Promoting student engagement in genetics: incorporating research projects into the genetics lab experience


What is the focus of your investigation?

The focus of my research investigation is to assess the effect of incorporating a research project into a genetics lab on student confidence and attitude towards genetics.  I find that students are often apprehensive regarding genetics and their ability to learn the subject.  They don’t see it as a topic that is relevant to their careers, or lives in general.  Consequently, at Worcester State College many biology students delay the required genetics course until their senior year.  The traditional lab structure for an introduction to genetics may ultimately reinforce aspects of these attitudes and preconceptions.  The lab presents a buffet of techniques, without providing experience in how those techniques might be used to solve a genuine biological problem and be incorporated into research.  This results in students being disengaged in lab experience.  I plan to incorporate a research project into the lab of my introductory genetics course and assess the effect on students’ attitudes regarding genetics and research in genetics, as well as their confidence in their ability to learn the subject and participate in genetics related research.

For more detailed information see Context and Problem

What resources/references have you found helpful?
While I have found many resources to be helpful, there are two resources that I have found particularly helpful, as they bring together works by several different authors on topics relevant to my research.  These are:

Taraban, R., and Blanton, R. L. (Eds.). (2008). Creating Effective Undergraduate Research Programs in Science: The Transformation from Student to Scientist. New York: Teachers College Press.

Mintzes, J. J., and Leonard, W. H. (Eds.). Handbook of College Science Teaching, Arlington, VA: NSTApress.

Each of these texts contains several chapters that I have found to be helpful.  I have referenced these specific chapters as well as other articles and resources in the Bibliography.
What is your approach and/or what evidence will you gather?

Student attitude and confidence will be measured in at the beginning and end of each semester using a Student Assessment of their Learning Gains (SALG) survey.  At the end of the semester students will be asked to write a reflective paper discussing their perception of the benefit of the lab experience. 

There will be two stages of the study:

Fall 2008 / Spring 2009.  Genetics lab will remain essentially unchanged.  There will be labs that cover the same concepts and techniques that will be covered when the research project is implemented.  Assessment will provide a baseline.

Fall 2009.  Research project will be incorporated into the genetics lab. Assessment will be compared to baseline generated in the fall semester.  

For more details see the Findings and Methods page.
What results have emerged ?

In progress. Further information will be posted on the Discussion page.

What information may be found in your Appendices?

In progress. Further information will be posted in the Appendices.


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Regarding plan "B", do you think students in different sections are similar enough to use one as a "control" and the other the experimental group?
Posted 13:30, 18 Jul 2008
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