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1.) Brame C.J., Pruitt W.M., and Robinson L.C.  (2008).  A molecular genetics laboratory course applying             bioinformatics and cell biology in the context of original research.    CBE-Life Sci. Educ. 7(4):410-421. 

             This reference comes from Centenary College of Louisiana and LSU Health Sciences Center and describes an effort at Centenary to employ a semester-long authentic research experience into a 300-level genetics course.  Using Saccharomyces cerevisiae casein kinase as a model, students were asked to use bioinformatics tools from the Internet to plan a strategy to study their genes of interest through site-directed mutation.  The students then performed all the necessary steps over the course of the semester to create these mutations, transform them into cells, and study the resultant phenotypes.  Student learning outcomes were assessed via pre-and post-testing as well as rubrics used to grade laboratory reports. 

            This study provides a good baseline for the kind of study I would like to perform with respect to testing a semester-long multidisciplinary authentic research experience in an undergraduate setting.  The authors provide simple yet effective student learning outcomes that are reasonably assessed by the methods described.  The study also uses basic statistics (t-testing) as a method for quantifying outcomes derived from student assessment methods.  I could use the set-up outlined in this paper to design a semester-long project that would incorporate multiple subdisiplines in biology.  In fact, a long-term goal of my work could be the comparison of single-discipline versus multi-discipline research-based courses in terms of student attainment and retention of scientific skills. 

 

2.) Brownell, S.E., Kloser, M.J., Fukami, T., and Shavelson, R.  (2012).  Undergraduate biology lab courses:             Comparing the impact of traditionally-based "cookbook" and authentic reserach-based courses on student             lab experiences.  J. Coll. Sci. Teaching 41(4): 36-45.

My primary interest in this paper lies less in its findings and more in its methodology.  My question seeks to discern the importance of content in an authentic research-based laboratory course and will require assessment tools that will allow me to examine the outcomes this experience will have on student learning.  A study such as this provides a model for me to follow that will inspire my experimental design in establishing how student learning outcomes will ultimately be assessed.

 

3.) Cheesman K., French D., Cheesman I., Swails N., and Thomas J. (2007).  Is there any common curriculum for             biology majors in the 21st century?  BioScience 57(6):516-522. 

            All authors except French are at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, while French is at Oklahoma State University.  This is a survey-driven study that sought to understand what topics were being taught in undergraduate biology classrooms across the nation.  The authors found that while the emphasis of department coursework has shifted towards molecular topics in the past couple of decades, a surprising level of uniformity existed among freshman-level biology survey coursework.  While the authors were unclear if this phenomenon was driven by faculty demand or textbook content, they alluded to a need to consider a more “interdisciplinary, human-centered biology” in the design of college biology curricula. 

            This reference is important to me primarily for the ideas it brings up as to what topics constitute an “ideal” freshman biology course.  While recent pedagogical studies suggest the importance of experience-based learning, it still seems important to expose students to the diversity of disciplines that make up modern biology.  My study will hopefully address the junction of these ideas with respect to assessing an experiential-based laboratory module that combines multiple subdisciplines of biology.  An important factor to consider will be the appropriateness of such a course at the freshman level as opposed to more experienced levels of students. 

 

4.) Gasper B.J. and Gardner S.M.  (2013).  Engaging students in authentic microbiology research in an         introductory biology laboratory course is correlated with gains in student understanding of the nature of         authentic research and critical thinking.  J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. 14(1):25-34. 

            The authors, from Purdue University and Florida Southern College, respectively, devised a semester-long course-based research experience for second-semester freshmen that was divided into three sections.  The basic skills necessary to perform the research were taught in the first section, a mutagenesis project involving the proP gene in Salmonella typhimurium was done in the second, and the public presentation of the results in the form of oral Powerpoint and poster presentations were done in the third.  Assessment at the beginning of the course in the form of personality surveys guided the authors in devising student research groups that mixed a variety of learning styles and personalities together.  Student outcomes were attained at the end of the course through the use of a Likert-type survey in which student gave their level of agreement with a series of statements about their interests in science, their ability to connect science to real life, and confidence to succeed in science. 

            While the basic structure described here is similar to that seen in the first reference, this work seemed to have a more scientific approach in providing statistically-backed evidence of gained in student learning and scientific experience.  This work also emphasized the use of multiple forms of evaluation in assessing student learning, including examination, written work, and oral presentation, and considered student-generated data in individual learning preferences in examining the data.  I would like to employ a multi-faceted assessment approach in my study as such an approach would provide the most comprehensive picture possible of how various teaching techniques could be succeeding or failing in providing positive student outcomes. 

 

5.) Gliddon, C.M. and Rosengren R.J.  (2012).  A laboratory course for teaching laboratory techniques,             experimental design, statistical analysis, and peer review process to undergraduate science students.             Biochem. Mol. Biol. Educ. 40(6): 364-371.

 

A major challenge to the implementation of a laboratory project that may serve as an effective demonstration of the importance of content in a laboratory-based course is the design of a project that will last an entire semester and encompass the complete picture of how a scientist operates.  This paper provides a model for how such a project may be successfully designed and implemented over the course of 13 weeks while giving students experience in experimental design, data analysis, and presentation of results.  In the long run, the development of semester-long projects focused on one specific subdiscipline of biology versus the full gamut experienced in a typical survey course would provide an ideal environment for the robust consideration of my research question.

           

6.) Robertson, W.  (2006-07).  Getting past "inquiry versus content".  Educational Leadership 64(4): 67-70.

This work is more of an essay than a study, but it raises several important points relevant to my research question.  The central aspect of this essay is the false notion that adding inquiry to a biology laboratory must necessarily come at the expense of content.  As this is the fundamental consideration of my research, I am intrigued by the author's considerations of how a biology laboratory can be best taught in a way that best satisfies both coverage of course material and the need for providing an authentic research experience to students.

 

7.) Temple L., Cresawn S., and Monroe J.D.  (2010).  Genomics and bioinformatics in undergraduate curricula:             Contexts for hybrid laboratory/lecture courses for entering and advanced science students. Biochem. Mol.             Biol. Educ. 38(1):23-28. 

            This paper from James Madison University describes a more mature course-based research experience structure in which a tiered system is used to provide a vertical integration of research experiences into the biology curriculum.  Freshmen students can engage in a year long, two-semester experience in which bacteriophages from the environment are isolated and characterized in molecular and bioinformatics fashions.  Upper-class students can extend their bioinformatics experience into more detailed work on evolutionary relationships between different organisms based on genomic sequence analysis.  The authors provide detailed accounts of the challenges and rewards of developing a vertical integration of research experiences into their biology curriculum and use high biology retention numbers to provide positive effects on student enthusiasm for science.  

            The use of both freshmen and upper-class students in this study suggests an important variable that can be included in my proposed work.  How important is multidisciplinarity in beginning versus advanced classes?  Does the providing of a course-based research experience in the first year enhance student learning outcomes in future coursework?  As my project develops and expands, these are questions I will want to consider.  

 

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