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Context & Problem

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Course: Cell Biology of the Nucleus
Advanced elective 4 credit course (juniors, seniors). Lecture/lab (1.5 hr. lecture, 1.5 hr lecture/ 3 hr lab)

Format:

Lecture: One ‘traditional’ lecture, one article discussion section/week. Article discussions (adapted from Hoskins et al., 2007)

Lab: Weeks 1-5: students learn techniques and procedures, receive preliminary data from my research, propose their own ‘next questions’ to investigate, draft experimental approach. Weeks 6-14: Pursue questions. Fluid format.
 

Course goal(s): For students to learn to think critically and to develop more sophisticated thinking (‘think like a scientist’).

I have observed that by the end of the course, students:
1. pose more refined scientific questions
2. identify and point out flaws in experimental design and data
3. are better at proposing ‘next experiments’
4. are more confident when talking about experimental design

                "Expert vs. novice attitudes"

Challenge:

Students without prior lab experience do not think like experts when analyzing scientific data (or when thinking
about Biology)

Question (‘What is?’):

Can a research-intensive, inquiry-based course promote synthesis and evaluation skills in students?

Why is this question interesting?

1. Shift in the past decade towards teaching science like it’s practiced (NRC, 1997; NRC, 2003; Handelsman et al., 2004)

2. Need for more undergraduates to pursue graduate studies in Biology

So…

1. Need to know if this method of instruction is effective, if it motivates students to attend grad school (not novel)

2. Do research-intensive courses lead students to behave/think like scientists? (novel)