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Biology Education Research Journey

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            Upon reflection, I consider my participation in the ASM Biology Scholars Program Research Residency in 2011, to be one of the best career decisions I’ve ever made. This program, while certainly excellent for educators beginning a career as a teaching professor, also provides a new way of approaching and investigating education practices for educators, like me, with many years of experience. Although, participation in the program added another layer of stress during the past academic year, I view this residency as a means of preventing academic burnout in future years.  Indeed, I now see my profession as a teaching professor more as an extension of my years as a researcher, showing me how to apply the same principles of scientific inquiry to my teaching practices. Therefore, what I value most about the Research Residency is the way it has enabled me to take my existing career in new directions.

            I found the organization of the Research Residency to be exceptionally well designed. First, you introduced us to the idea of scientific inquiry in teaching practices through well-chosen articles and then to the peer-reviewed literature by assigning a well-guided literature search. This gave us a basic foundation for the design of our own educational hypothesis during the workshop. For me, the workshop really hammered home a number of very important concepts. First, make sure you get along with the people on the IRB committee. These people can make or break you, so it is better to be on their good side. I am lucky. My university is small; I know the people on the committee and had gone through much of the procedure for submitting an IRB the year before with another project. I was able to get approval a few days before the start of classes. Second, keep a journal of your thoughts during the school year. I would like to say, that I did this as completely as I should, but I do have a folder devoted to my thoughts and am making more complete notes about what works and what doesn’t for each of my courses. Third, when designing a project, keep the focus narrow and align the hypothesis with the experimental design. Does the assessment technique really measure what you need to determine the effectiveness of a technique? As with basic research, this can be very tricky and difficult to achieve. Finally, qualitative results or looking at what student’s understand before and after a teaching exercise can reveal major misconceptions and guide your teaching practices. I truly believe that was one of the more important messages of the year, i.e., listening to your students critically.

            Implementation of my research design went okay, but I often felt rushed. Because of an unanticipated teaching overload, keeping focused on what to do next was challenging. Both the development of a time line and gentle prodding by the BSP designers was very helpful and I would not have made it without them. Major regrets involved not using the Wiki page to communicate with the other members and not maintaining a journal at that site as originally planned. However, I look forward to the capstone meeting in a few weeks and plan on making better use of the connections I’ve made with other teaching professors. So, thanks for all the wonderful help and don’t be surprised if I show up at one of the other BSP workshops in a year or two.

Attached is a preliminary Figure 1 for my poster presentation at the ASMCUE meeting in San Mateo.

Will be a little late with the references, have to go to a meeting.

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