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A. Pre-SoTL Institute Reflection

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To introduce the topic of immunology to my classes, I have them role-play as cells of the immune system so that they can see how the various cells interact.The students have fun—but do they really learn anything? Is this method of delivery as effective as more traditional methods (i.e. lecture)?I have done some preliminary work looking at how effective the exercise is on classes of different sizes, and whether people who directly participate in the role-play learn more than those who simply watch their classmates.I am also interested in whether my students of different demographics (gender, race, level in school) learn differently during role-play simulations.

I particularly identified with Bass’ teaching “problems” in the context of my own questions about my teaching.The article made me appreciate how systematic one must be to design and implement educational goals in the classroom, and test whether these goals are accomplished.To look at one’s classroom as a research laboratory of sorts is an interesting viewpoint—one that I have obviously adopted, but I didn’t think fully about the parallels between the two venues.I also found Benson’s description of teaching and learning relationships in the classroom thought-provoking, and it has me considering how much time I spend in each category.Nelson’s article was interesting mostly because it made me wonder why he found that people outside his field provided more transformative ideas about teaching compared to those in biology. Is it that biologists are farther behind in SoTL? That making connections in SoTL from disparate disciplines creates a greater mental impact? Or that as biologists we often get into a “rut” of similar thinking about SoTL that is shaken up by observations from other disciplines?

I see the potential application of many of the 12 properties of SoTL as proposed by Spencer Benson in the overall process that I hope to gain from Biology Scholars.However, at this stage of my project, #1 (reflection), #4 (building upon the work of others), #8 (problem centric), and #9 (principles of the field) are the most applicable.Throughout the course of the year, I am looking forward to sharing and discussing my work, which would incorporate a number of other properties from Benson’s list.

My main concern in addressing my “problem” is performing the proper controls to effectively address my question.I need to determine the appropriate methodology by reading SoTL literature.I also need to “catch up” on my reading to determine what has been done by others and where my project fits in.Upon reading the Institutional Review Board literature from my campus, I believe that my research does not need IRB approval. (But I’ll be interested to discuss that with the group).Thus, I believe most of what I need requires a bit of time, legwork and direction (which I hope the Biology Scholars program can provide).

Within the next 12 months, I would like to not only perform experiments to address my teaching “problem” and analyze the data, but to also write up my role-playing exercise for publication in MicrobeLibrary Curriculum resources.For ASMCUE 2009, I could present the data that I collect over the fall semester and/or a demonstration of the role-playing exercise.Eventually, I my goal is to publish my learning assessment data in an appropriate journal (JMBE or similar), though I’m not certain if that will happen in the next 12 months.

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