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Reading Reflections

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            My research problem involves developing a semester-long authentic research experience for an introductory level biology course that caters to both majors and non-majors.  At Hampden-Sydney, introductory level biology is offered as a one-semester survey course with lecture and laboratory components and there is no separation between majors and non-majors.  Thus, any lab experience that I develop for this class needs to take into account the different experience levels and interests of the student population while also considering the many subdisciplines of biology that my colleagues will expect to be represented in this course. 

            Based on my previous teaching experiences and the reading presented here on the scholarship of teaching, I understand why reforming introductory-level coursework to focus on critical thinking and work through problems like a scientist is a project worth undertaking.  However, I am unsure of how to tell if I have succeeded in making my students better scientific thinkers.  Do the learning goals for majors versus non-majors need to be different, and if so, how do I address this in a common class?  If there is a common set of learning goals, to which audience do I primarily cater my class?  Would I be able to disseminate my work in developing this laboratory experience in the form of a publication, and how would I most effectively go about this?  As I looked at the readings, I was struck by what I thought I knew about “the scholarship of teaching” as well as the large scope of what I still need to learn.  I am aware of the importance of this scholarship but am not entirely clear on how to effectively implement a pedagogical study in my own classroom. 

            I would classify my research problem under the “what works” and “vision of the possible” taxonomies from Hutchings.  My research problem is not a de novo problem that nobody has ever considered before.  I should be able to take advantage of efforts that have come before mine and apply ideas that have worked at other institutions to my own class at Hampden-Sydney.  These ideas, however, will need to be molded and adapted to my own teaching environment at a small all-male liberal arts college which combines students of widely differing enthusiasm and experience levels into one common classroom and which tends to be slow in the adaptation of new ideas in teaching.  I am confident that I can develop a successful classroom-based research experience, but I will need to consider the speed in which such reforms are made, the ways in which I can reach students of differing levels of ability and enthusiasm, and the scientific and political interests of my colleagues in the biology department and across the College as a whole. 


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