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What challenges or obstacles have you encountered while working on your project?  What solutions to overcome these challenges did you find?  Are you still facing these difficulties? 


Deborah Anderson, St. Norbert College
I faced several challenges while working on my project, but was able to overcome each one. The first challenge was figuring out how I would use the data to specifically address my question in a meaningful way. My psychology collaborator helped me understand this. Designing a SoTL project is different than designing a research project in my field, paleontology. A second challenge I faced was, the students were noticeably uncomfortable during lecture when the module we were studying included only high cognitive level clicker questions. I wanted to mix it up, but couldn't because of the study. The third challenge was that I gave the responsibility for collecting data and coding it to an undergraduate student and this person made so many mistakes that I had to recollect the data when the semester was over. Luckily, I had most of the exams, but I did lose 11 cases for the first exam because of this. However, the statistician that I am working with was able to mine the data for all the information available despite the loss of some data.
 
Charlotte Borgeson, University of Nevada
 
Christina Colon, Kingsborough Community College
Time continues to be a challenge for me as I am working on other research fronts and the nature of the data is quite different. The biggest time challenge involves finding time to process the data and the learning curve that it entails. I am lucky to have people on campus who are able and willing to assist me with that process. Because the data must be sequestered from me until I submit grades, there are logistical challenged involved with administering the questionnaires, housing them during the semester, retrieving them after grades are submitted etc. It is also challenging to get the students to remember the code names they used on the pre-semester questionnaire which has resulted in some data being lost when I am unable to match pre and post semester questionnaires. Another challenge is getting students to give input and feedback through a focus group after the semester is over; they are burned out and eager to leave campus so the hope of doing a focus group has remained elusive. Classroom time to complete the surveys as well as to make sure students understand the nature and importance of this work is also limited and therefore poses a challenge. Initially I planned to collaborate with another faculty from a different campus who teaches science education, but again, we have been unable to find the time to really work together more than the current exchange of cursory emails and brief conversations.
 
Jill Crowder, Milwaukee Area Technical College
 
Lisa Elfring, University of Arizona
 I found that it was difficult for me to both push my “own” project (centered on looking critically at the undergraduate biology curriculum between the ~25 programs on our campus) and to help the other faculty learning community group members with resources as they embarked on their own projects. I should have spent more time thinking about how to address my role as a facilitator of faculty professional learning, rather than my own project—but I felt torn to do both, and I think both suffered to a certain extent. Now that the summer break has begun, there is more un-fragmented time for me to spend on my own project, and I am thinking more about how to facilitate the process so our community members can “close out” their projects before the beginning of the next academic year.
 
Cori Fata-Hartley, Lyman Briggs College
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The biggest challenge is the data analysis. Trained as a molecular biologist, I haven’t used statistics in years and coding qualitative data is completely new to me.  But I work in a very interdisciplinary unit so I feel as though being forced to learn these other skills allows me to understand the research of my colleagues better.

 

John Geiser, Western Michigan University
Biggest challenge has been figuring out how to use the collected data to answer a question.  I realize this is backwards, but lack of fore-thought (even though I thought I did enough at the time) and establishing GREAT questions, not just GOOD/INTERESTING questions has been problematic.  Thus this was more of a pilot than the research I had hoped it would be.  No longer think I have the same issues, but only time will tell.  Gearing up to repeat in the fall with additions based on what I have learned from this pilot.
 
Cindy Graham, University Of Calgary

The biggest challenge I have faced is simply one of time!  I have an enormous amount of data; although I have enlisted the help of a statistician, it will still require a lot of work to put the data into a form that he can cope with.  The shear volume of analysis that has to be done is overwhelming and even going through the consent forms takes hours.  I have been able to focus on specific parts of my investigation during the analysis and so that has helped but putting all of the results together into a comprehensive understanding of the factors impacting student success in my class will be challenging.

 

Jacquelyn Golden, North Carolina State University


Original Research Problem:  Is it possible to utilize case studies as an intervention to improve student engagement of two distinct student populations in an upper-level Avian Physiology Course?

Change in Research Problem: Upon returning from the 2010 Summer Institute a significant change in the undergraduate Poultry Science curriculum at
North Carolina State University took place. The upper-level Avian Physiology course that I was teaching to pre-veterinary (science concentration) and industry (technology concentration) students was no longer required for technology concentration students.  Instead, an
environmental physiology course that was more production oriented was offered to technology students.  Thus, the issue of student engagement of
two distinct student populations in my Avian Physiology course was no longer an issue.  Thus, the work I completed to design my experiment, IRB approval etc. was no longer relevant.  I spent some time reconsidering other research options and decided to investigate the impact of utilizing
case studies in my Introductory Poultry Science course to improve students' problem solving skills.  I have spent the past semester working
on research design and gathering literature.  I am recently completed and sumbitted my IRB proposal for Fall 2011 semester.

Challenges:  The most significant challenge I faced is that upon returning from the 2010 Summer Institute,  a significant change in the undergraduate
Poultry Science curriculum at North Carolina State University took place.The upper-level Avian Physiology course that I was teaching to
pre-veterinary (science concentration) and industry (technology concentration) students was no longer required for technology concentration students.  Instead, an environmental physiology course that
was more production oriented was offered to technology students.  Thus, the issue of student engagement of two distinct student populations in my Avian Physiology course was no longer an issue.  Thus, the work I completed to design my experiment, IRB approval etc. was no longer
relevant as I needed to develop a new research problem!

 

 

 
Kai "Billy" Hung, Eastern Illinois University
 
The most significant challenge I face is the lack of depth in my literature coverage on the topics that I want to work on. The learning curve is steep and requires an investment of time that I just could not find during the semester. I hope that I can find the time needed to devote to reading the existing literature, both on current research that are similar to what I am doing and on concepts and ideas, in the summer. Another challenge I face is that I realized after trying to plan the implementation of my project that the scope of the result would be too narrow and that expanding it to a braoder scope will take significantly more effort. I ended up changing my plan and working on a different project.  
 
 
Allison Hunter, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
My biggest challenge is dealing with the qualitative side of my design.  After completing the pilot, I see it needs some revamping.  And, even so, just handling qualitative data in general is a challenge for me.  This was a pilot and I want to really focus on the qualitative design before I do it again.  But, as always, really be clear...what am I asking?  Do I expect to see a difference in case vs not case pedagogies and how am I measuring that difference?  Even my quantitative design need some work and I see where I may want to re-think some things now that I've done some analysis on what I collected in this pilot.
 
Jeffrey LaMack, Milwaukee School of Engineering
Designing a survey that would ultimately meaningfully address my research question and provide useful insights (especially when rushing to get it together for my IRB); finding good references (much more difficult that scientific research); coordinating with another faculty member deeply involved in the project.  I feel like, through repeated efforts, I was able to overcome some of these obstacles, but learning how to deal with others will have to wait until future projects. 
 
Stephen Nold, University of Wisconsin-Stout
 Rather than designing my own survey, I relied on a publically available survey (CURE) from David Lopatto at Grinnell College.  The challenge this presents is the enormous flow of resulting data and limitations to what I have access.    Dr. Lopatto has been very supportive, however and has shared what I have requested (standard deviations, etc.) so data analysis is possible.  Otherwise, the project has been a pleasure and productive.  Now I jsut need time to write it into a mansucript.  Hmmm.
 
Byrn "Boots" Quimby, University of Maryland
Analyzing the data and trying to make sense of the information. 
Finding the time to devote to the project.
I do not think I have overcome either of these obstacles.  I just keep going back to the data and trying to see it in a different way without trying to make it say what I want it to say.  The time thing is always an issue.  In all of this I feel like I am fumbling my way through, very much like a new Grad student unsure of what they have gotten themselves into.  I feel as though I am trying to be an expert at something I know very little about.
 
Joanne Rampersad-Ammons, University of Texas Pan-American
 
1) It was difficult to come up with a system so that several users could access the software simultaneously. Our IT department allowed us to use their Virtual Lab to mount our software. It is a little tedious, since all of the potential users need to be put into the system and there is some paperwork that needs to be done regarding information security. However I was able to add 166 students to the system apart from the 30 students who were directly in my class or my research program. Those students who tried to use the system via the Virtual lab reported minimal problems overall. However, a few Macintosh users had difficulty. In those cases, we logged students onto designated machines and they were able to do the surveys.
2) My biggest problem was student apathy. In situations where I had direct contact with students, the response was fairly good if it was a one time affair. In my introductory biochemistry class 16 out of 18 students did the first round of surveys. In my advanced biochemistry class all did the first round surveys- and this was a direct reflection of my ability to police them in person. At the end of the semester, where I could not police them, less than half of the class took the surveys- I think that this was a direct reflection of my ability to ‘nag’ them. In classes that were not my own, a handful of students bothered to help.
 
Susan Rowland, University of <leo_highlight leohighlights_underline="true" leohighlights_url_bottom="http%3A//shortcuts.thebrowserhighlighter.com/leonardo/plugin/highlights/3_2/tbh_highlightsBottom.jsp?keywords%3Dqueensland%26domain%3Dwiki.biologyscholars.org" leohighlights_url_top="http%3A//shortcuts.thebrowserhighlighter.com/leonardo/plugin/highlights/3_2/tbh_highlightsTop.jsp?keywords%3Dqueensland%26domain%3Dwiki.biologyscholars.org" leohighlights_keywords="queensland" onmouseout="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOut('leoHighlights_Underline_0')" onmouseover="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOver('leoHighlights_Underline_0')" onclick="leoHighlightsHandleClick('leoHighlights_Underline_0')" id="leoHighlights_Underline_0" style="border-bottom: _fckstyle="border-bottom: 2px solid rgb(255, 255, 150); background: transparent none repeat scroll 0% 50%; cursor: pointer; display: inline; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial;">Queensland</leo_highlight>

TIme. Always time. I have found a way around it, just for the next semester. I am a UQ teaching fellow, next semester, and this gives me money to buy out my teaching (go figure). I think it's important to not try and take on too many things at once, and only work with people who want to work on T&L stuff. Don't try and drag someone screaming into T&L research because you think they are a bad teacher and they could do with improvement. That's supposed to be my job at UQ, but I think softly softly is a better approach. 

 
Heather Seitz, Johnson County Community College
 My biggest challenge is having enough time.  Not just to enter and analyze data but for reflection and contemplation.  I found it difficult to really think about the data before I needed to start a new semester.  I felt like I didn't really get a chance to fully reflect before the new semester began.  I also don't seem to be able to find the time to read and do literature searches as often as I wanted. I did have good luck creating some colleagues who are interested and engaged in talking about education research and that helped a lot to have fresh eyes and ideas.  In addition, I discovered some resources at our college to help with data management and statistics, I haven't had time to utilize them yet, but plan to for next semester.  I don't think there will ever be enough time, I think the solution is just in prioritizing the research work I am doing.
 
Amy Siegesmund, Pacific Lutheran University
I have to be honest and say that the biggest challenge for me really was the finding the time to devote to my project.  I'm still struggling with this issue.  My solution has typically been that I'm getting up at 3 or 3:30am in order to get all my work done, but something tells me that this model won't be sustainable for much longer!  Another large challenge for me was not having an on-campus contingent of folks that I could talk to about my project or questions that I was having.  Having my cohort of fellow Scholars has been amazing, but I'm sure you all can appreciate that sometimes you just really need that immediate feedback/discussion. 
 
Susan Sullivan, Louisiana State University
 Like everyone, time was a major obstacle. I am concerned that if I had not committed to this from the beginning that I would have let this slide even more. Having the committment let me reprioritze the study as highly important or sometimes "emergency" status while I think it might have ended up as "want to do when there is time".  Lack of time is confounded by the uncertainty I have of my university's committment to honoring SOTL as appropriate professional development. To hedge my bets I kept my "wet lab" studies on microbial interactions going. I need to keep marketing SOTL to pave the way within our University system.
  Confidence was another barrier to be overcome. Like Boots I was often overwhelmed with feeling like the new graduate student (but without the mentor). The literature in the field is foreign, I am not as statistically savvy as I need and I kept feeling like I was not doing enough. We had our cohort, and mentors to turn to but I found that I rarely did this because I just felt ignorant. (I am) When I did seek help it was wonderfully supportive and useful, however.  I wish my small group had been more active with checking in on one another.
  It was discouraging also to see that the method I was trying was not successful in improving student learning, but that did free me up to try other methods with the next semester's class.
 
Alison Wallace, Minnesota State University Moorhead
I am my biggest obstacle because in the middle of my research project, I began questioning whether I was happy with the assessments that I designed. I know that I want to improve them, or perhaps even go back to the drawing board, but in the meantime needed to gear myself up to analyze the data and complete the project at hand before beginning the revisions. I think that some of this was because I worked largely by myself on this project. I will need to work harder at bouncing ideas off of others and getting an external <leo_highlight leohighlights_underline="true" leohighlights_url_bottom="http%3A//shortcuts.thebrowserhighlighter.com/leonardo/plugin/highlights/3_2/tbh_highlightsBottom.jsp?keywords%3Dperspective%26domain%3Dwiki.biologyscholars.org" leohighlights_url_top="http%3A//shortcuts.thebrowserhighlighter.com/leonardo/plugin/highlights/3_2/tbh_highlightsTop.jsp?keywords%3Dperspective%26domain%3Dwiki.biologyscholars.org" leohighlights_keywords="perspective" onmouseout="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOut('leoHighlights_Underline_1')" onmouseover="leoHighlightsHandleMouseOver('leoHighlights_Underline_1')" onclick="leoHighlightsHandleClick('leoHighlights_Underline_1')" id="leoHighlights_Underline_1" style="border-bottom: 2px solid rgb(255, 255, 150); background: transparent none repeat scroll 0% 50%; cursor: pointer; display: inline; -moz-background-clip: -moz-initial; -moz-background-origin: -moz-initial; -moz-background-inline-policy: -moz-initial;">perspective</leo_highlight> on my work so that I can recognize what it is accomplishing rather than be too much of a perfectionist and worry that I am not getting it 100% right the first time around. 
 
Kristen Walton, Missouri Western State University
I have to agree with some of the others who have already said that time is the biggest challenge.  I don't think that I have overcome this issue very well at this point, although I have hopes that the fall semester will be a little better as I repeat my data collection with another class.  To be honest, my 4.5 month old occupies even more of my time than I expected right now (he's wonderful but not a great sleeper!), and so although I have surveys, etc. available to analyze, finding the time to do a thorough analysis this spring has been very difficult.  I will continue to work on prioritizing things at work so that I don't try to do everything at once and can focus a little more time on my project.
 
Valerie Watt, University of Toronto

Lack of time was the overriding obstacle to working on my research project. I wish that I could have found a solution to create more time, but unfortunately I had to carve it out of the 24 hours in a day! Ignoring other responsibilities was my best short term solution, but taking a sabbatical is my very exciting long term answer.

Kathy Zoghby, University of Richmond
I could fill in my challenges just from what you all have said before me.  As you can see, I am coming to this very late - and was not even sure that I could get my poster together to attend the meeting.  However, now that I have actually finished my poster I am very excited and looking forward to being with you all for the meeting this week.  The biggest hurdle for me was the statistics, like everyone else, and I am anxious to see whether I have managed to analyze what data I have in a respectable manner!  I did find it difficult working on my own with no support or anyone to discuss my project within my department.  Education research is not at all on the radar in our department.  
 

 

 

 

 

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Boots, I had very similar "new grad student" feelings.
Posted 11:56, 21 May 2011
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