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2Context and Problem

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Statement of the problem/challenge
As a new faculty member at a primarily undergraduate minority serving institution, my biggest challenge involves effectively managing my undergraduate student researchers. This is a challenge all new faculty must surmount. Many of us believe that exposing students to ‘real research’ does wonders in enhancing their skills, and for this reason we would like to bring our research into the teaching laboratory via inquiry-based laboratories- but what exactly is required to effectively mentor large numbers of undergraduates at the same time?
How I am addressing the problem/challenge
For several years, I have been working with a collaborator on testing ideas to address this challenge. In order to manage student research activities, I am using a three component system: 1. Establishment of a research network/community which spans the research and inquiry based teaching students; 2. Using management software (Student Research Organizer) to document and manage the activities of the network; 3. Using data tracking software to document and manage the data collection activities of the research network where all members of the network have access to the data being generated so that they can start asking/answering their own questions.
In order to evaluate what we are doing, I would like to begin a systematic assessment of these components. This is my primary reason for joining the Biology Scholars program- to learn ‘how to’.
Themes that resonate- these really stood out to me not necessarily for tackling my challenge, but for getting me to where I want to be.
From Randy Bass-1. ‘Teachers need to know more than just their subject. They need to know the ways it can come to be understood, the ways it can be misunderstood, what counts as understanding: they need to know how individuals experience the subject.’ I think of this as a lifelong goal.
From Pat Hutchings- 1. Investigation ‘changes the role of students,making them more active agents in shapingand examining the processes of teaching andlearning. Indeed, the involvement of studentsin the doing of the scholarship of teachingand learning—as co-investigators and agents,rather than as objects’, 2.“I want to understand moreabout how I can help students see themselvesas part of the wonderful process of understandingthe world around them and theirposition in it.”
From Gwynn Mettetal- 1.‘every teaching situation is unique in terms of content, level, student skills and learning styles, teacher skills and teaching styles, and many other factors. To maximize student learning, a teacher must find out what works best in a particular situation.’
2. ‘Validity is achieved through the triangulation of data.’
Perhaps one of the ways to make significant progress with my problem/challenge is to ask ‘what works’. In building our investigations I would like to build ‘new models and conceptual frameworksgenerate new questions that can, inturn, enrich the scholarship of teaching andlearning and extend its boundaries’. The use of tracking software opens up the possibility of being able to document events and provides a framework for a common platform that may allow us to monitor how students are changing as their research experience unfolds.
My reflections
It has taken me a while to sort out my thoughts- as I read the articles, by mind was constantly fluttering about all of the courses that I teach and it was difficult to focus on my challenge. I was like a kid in a candy store, drooling over all of the possibilities. I also realized that I have been doing a lot of “change the script as you go” and not conducting full-fledged “design experiments” which is an essential part of the process if I am to communicate my results. I have been trying to “strike a balance between rigor and flexibility” and to let the investigation “unfold and take shape as the course itself, as well as the students’ experience, unfolds and takes shape’. While this will suffice as a good strategy for my general teaching, and will ease my conscience, (I was beginning to feel guilty for not being rigorous all of the time), it will not cut it if I really want to make a difference and do something concrete to tackle my challenge. As I was mulling over all of this, I had a mini epiphany- to be committed to the Scholarship of Teaching and learning means that I will be always a learner- the thought is exhilarating. How do I now persuade my students to begin their own lifelong quest on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning?
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