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February Assignments

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ASMcue abstract draft due February 3, 2010

The ASMcue abstract deadline is fast approaching (finals due February 15th ) and this assignment will help you get started.  We’ll have a conference call to discuss more particulars and answer any of your questions within the next two weeks.  Watch for an email.  In the meantime, please compose a draft of your ASMcue abstracts and share them with your team and facilitator via the wiki (February tab) for review and comment by Wednesday, February 3rd.  

  MIRIAM:    Here's mine!

Determining the effect of dissecting primary literature on students’ critical thinking skills and attitudes towards science

Undergraduate research is recognized as a high-impact practice. However, many students lack the technical and analytical tools necessary to succeed at scientific research. Therefore, it is important to develop ways of engaging students in activities that develop skills necessary to succeed in this practice. One such skill is the ability to think critically about scientific data and their implications in the broader context of the field. To address this, we adapted a structured method for analyzing the primary literature within a cell biology class. Students in the treatment group analyzed primary research articles related to the topic covered in lecture on a weekly basis using a variation of the CREATE method (Hoskins et al., 2007), while students in the control group read and discussed the same primary research articles without a structured approach. The CREATE method compels students to analyze how and why a set of results is presented in a given publication. Within this method, students also think of the “next experiments” they would perform if they had done the research detailed in the article. We hypothesize based on previous observations that students who use the CREATE method to analyze primary literature have gains in critical thinking skills, particularly in their ability to synthesize and evaluate material. To test this, we will compare students’ performance on the California Critical Thinking Skills Test and the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory at the beginning and the end of the semester. We will also analyze student gains in synthesis and evaluation by designing exam questions that test these skills in the first and final exams. Additionally, we will investigate if students’ perceptions of scientific research are altered through this process by comparing pre-/post- student-generated reflective papers on the nature of research as well as pre-/post- answers to the CLASS-Bio. Our results should provide insight into the impact of reading the primary literature using a modified version of the CREATE method on student critical thinking skills and on their perception of scientific research.

Julie's abstract

Improving the quality of undergraduate honors theses 

by teaching the conventions of scientific writing and professional peer review 

J.A. Reynolds and R. Thompson

Undergraduate theses and other capstone research projects are standard features of many science curricula, but participation has typically been limited to only the most advanced and highly motivated students. With the recent push to engage more undergraduates in research, some faculty are finding that their typical approach to working with thesis writers is less effective (given the wider diversity of students) or is inefficient (given the higher participation rates). In these situations, a more formal process may be needed to ensure that all students are adequately supported and to establish consistency in how student writers are mentored and assessed. To address this need, we created BioTAP, the Biology Thesis Assessment Protocol, a teaching and assessment tool. BioTAP includes a rubric that articulates departmental expectations for the thesis, and a guide to the drafting-feedback-revision process that is modeled after the structure of professional scientific peer review. In this paper, we present the results of a study that compares the quality of theses written by students who used BioTAP versus those who did not, controlling for academic and demographic variables that could confound the results. We found that BioTAP not only helps student write more compelling arguments for the significance of their research, but also helps them more clearly interpret their results and discuss the implications of their projects. We also discuss how BioTAP has been successfully adapted to other departments and other disciplines, including economics, chemistry, and engineering. 


Here is mine - I revised and submitted to ASM CUE today  - Lisa

Blog, Blog, Blog, Blog. How to Get the most from a Course Blog. 

L.K. Johansen, L. Hartley, and T. Duncan.  University of Colorado Denver, Denver, Colorado.

Today’s students are techno junkies, barely able to turn off their cell phone or iPod for the hour-fifteen minute class period.  Because of this, many try to engage this new type of student by using technology.  In reading the education literature, the pressure to use technology in the classroom can seem overwhelming.  Every time you turn around there is a new website or application available to incorporate into your teaching.  But how do you go from a good idea to a beneficial course tool, when you yourself have limited experience with the technology?  A few of us at the University of Colorado Denver decided to try course blogs.  Our rationale was that a course blog provided our primarily commuter student population a chance to engage with their classmates from a distance.  Our second motivation was to facilitate students’ ability to connect the course materials with the larger community.  Not surprisingly, we found that three different instructors can get three different student-wide responses to the usefulness of the blog by implementing minor variations in approach to the same technology.  Furthermore, we found great value in administering pre and post course questionnaires.  We have been able to identify specific areas that could be improved to make the use of a course blog more beneficial to the students.  For instance, we have found that we need to “force” participation on a regular basis.  In addition, we found we needed to better train the students on use of the blog.  Not only have we discovered some practical tips for implementing a blog in your course, but we have learned quite a bit about designing questionnaires to get to the questions you are most interested in.  A comparison of the three approaches and three unique outcomes will be presented, as well as a guideline to setting up a blog for your course.


Obviously, I'm really, really, really late at getting this in.  Sorry about that.


What the Heck is This? Teaching a Content-Rich Diversity Course in an Open-Ended Format
Conrad Toepfer, Brescia University
Student success on exams and lab practicals has been declining over the past several years in a content heavy biological diversity course at Brescia University. The course was developed when the core curriculum was altered with the result that a semester of botany and a semester of zoology were combined into a single course with no appreciable change in the amount of content. Students have struggled with the quantity of information and have shown decreasing abilities to score well on exams. Performance on lab practicals has also declined to the point where only a single student received a passing grade on a practical in 2008. Students were unable to memorize the content much less apply it effectively to observations of specimens in lab. The course was redesigned to have an open-ended format in which students are provided with the taxonomic names, structures, and concepts that they will be responsible for learning during the semester. They are also provided with all the lab specimens at the beginning of the semester. Over the course of the semester, they are tasked with sorting the specimens into a phylogenetic tree using the lists of content that were provided. The expectation is that they will access the content as needed resulting in enhanced retention since they will be applying the content directly rather than using rote memorization from lectures. Students were given a pre-assessment of 50 multiple choice questions and two matching questions. They will be given the same questions at the end of the semester. In addition, they are tracking their access to the content in personal journals and reflective papers. They will still have lab practicals but will also be given unknown specimens to see if they are better able to apply the material.
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Hi Julie! All I got from your post was gibberish...did you have a compatibility problem?
Lisa: I like your abstract!
Posted 17:05, 8 Feb 2010
Hi All -

I am interested to hear how Conrad's class goes. I am too much of a control freak to be able to run a class like that. I hope it works well for the students, and you.

Also, I wanted to thank Miriam for the CREATE information. I looked it up and it is a very interesting idea of presenting scientific literature. I am anxious to see how your application turns out.

And, Julie, of course you are years ahead of us all, but I am excited to hear how the application of TAP works in the other disciplines.

Lisa edited 18:03, 15 Feb 2010
Posted 18:01, 15 Feb 2010
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