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assignment #2

I am working with a team of like-minded instructors on the improvement of our premed combined BA/MD undergrad curriculum. As part of the challenge to facilitate integration of the individual courses (not just the science courses) we are trying to identify a framework that will guide specific interventions promoting student success. In our classes we see a bimodal distribution of grades: very successful and struggling students. We also encounter particular themes and misconceptions carrying on through the curricular progression, such as thinking across size and scale. Skills and knowledge are frequently not transferred from class to class, e.g. the meaning of a buffer system in chemistry vs. biochemistry. The identification of such key barriers to the development of expert thinking within some of the undergrad science disciplines is not new and may even be supported by existing concept inventories. It is the cross-disciplinary aspect I like to focus on, starting by a ‘What is ‘ question: (1) what are these difficult concepts? This should inform (2) how coursework can be integrated to avoid compartmentalization of knowledge (visions of the possible in the questions taxonomy).  To me the categories in the taxonomy build on each other in some sort of circle, a sequence from ‘what is’ to ‘what works’ (need analysis) to ‘visions of the possible’ and back to what is.

I would like to use both, faculty and student surveys to probe for several aspects, including awareness of common misconceptions, issues of different meaning of technical terms across disciplines, define what a ‘hard question’ is and why. In addition, recordings of specific small group problem solving activities should be informative as well as correlation to exams including seed questions addressing problematic content that allow for comparison over the years. It may well turn out that it is more about the process than the content itself.


Several aspects addressed by the readings felt relevant to me, because I am struggling with them: The difficulty of this first stage where the proposal is a blank canvas and the need to think small by looking at only one aspect of teaching. I was originally interested in exploring unconscious bias with vignette-based assessments in medical education and possible impact on healthcare access and quality. However for many reasons that I will not go into now, I find myself turning down another path for now that is different from my original intention for this proposal.  I hope that I can incorporate a piece down the road that satisfies my interest in unintentional bias.

The transition from neuroscience to the research of in science education placed me in intimidating new territory. I was comforted when complexity was mentioned in the articles and the notion that qualitative approximate reports, suggestive knowledge have their place, because the classroom setting is not exactly a tightly controlled experiment. With that, I will embrace the idea that qualitative data can be analyzed for recurring themes.

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