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Reading Reflections

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7 June, 2013 

 1.How would you describe your research “problem” to the Biology Scholars group? 

 Bass gives the example of asking students to write about historical artifacts at the beginning of his course.  Most students stated that either they did or did not have the content knowledge to interpret the artifacts, but very few commented on the skills they had that they could use to address the question. 


Similarly, many of my science students put more emphasis on what they know rather than how they know it.  I would like to see students develop skills that would enable them to more capably interpret new scientific data that they collect.  Most importantly, I would like them to understand that they have these skills, and I hope that this understanding increases students’ excitement about science and their confidence in being a scientist or thinking scientifically. 


But in order to do any of this I have to understand how students experience original scientific data – so that is my scholarly “problem”.  What do students know about how to infer conclusions from novel data and what do they think they know? 


2. What theme/s, based on your readings, resonate with your “problem/s” and your proposed approach to address your problem/s? 

 Mettetal article:  The importance of publishing is a fact of life for all of us.  Mettetal (p. 9) states that, “practical significance, rather than statistical significance, is the goal.”  Can this really be true for anyone that wants to still be employed five years from now?  Is the method of “triangulation” she describes (supporting a conclusion by gathering evidence from multiple sources, rather than using statistical significance) good enough?  I do not have the institutional structure to be able to set up good control groups – so other ways of assessing validity is an important issue for me.   


Hutchings article: The discussion of the conflict between “rigor and flexibility” (p. 8) resonated.  In a recent pre/post assessment I gave to students, the questions that I thought were relevant to student learning at the beginning of the course were quite different than what I thought was relevant at the end of the course, but since I was comparing pre- to post- I had to stick with the original (now outdated) assessment.   


3. Based on the Pat Hutchings article what taxonomy would you use to describe your research question and why? 

I would like to address Hutchings questions one and two.  Ultimately I would like to know what works (#1), but to do that I need to first better understand the students’ learning experience (#2). 


I have been frustrated in my assessment attempts in the past by not really knowing the right questions to ask - feeling that the answers do not capture student learning.  I have only assessed with multiple choice surveys and I feel that students’ deep or sustainable understanding is more complex than what can be captured in this format.  But maybe I have to step back and find out what they know and what they know about what they know before I can ask the right question, whether in a multiple choice format or not.   


4. Do you have any questions/concerns/comments that have evolved from your readings? 

 I hope the bulk of this workshop is focused on HOW to pursue the scholarship of teaching, rather than why.  I suspect we have all signed up for the workshop because we already value this type of inquiry.  I would really like to be able to discuss as many specific examples/techniques/types of data/types of analysis as possible.  The Hutchings article introduced many tantalizing topics that I would love to learn about in more depth.   


Bass article: I have always thought that educational research is different from research in my discipline because in educational research we are striving for a specific outcome – improvements in content knowledge or attitude or retention, etc.  In my discipline, however, any outcome should be acceptable as good science.  But Bass changed my thinking – we should step back and ask how students are experiencing the subject – which is more like a real research question (with any outcome as acceptable).  Then we can take that information and use it to change outcomes (improvements in content knowledge or attitudes or retention, etc.).  But the scholarly question, maybe, is how students experience the subject. 

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