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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)


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"


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


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)


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Viewing 8 of 8 comments: view all
Really interesting projects.
Are you using an existing rubric or are you creating one?
Can you get someone to run your focus groups? A reflective paper might be an easier way to collect data. In addition, if you code the papers, other emerging ideas might appear that you did not think about.
Posted 15:58, 17 Jul 2009
Miriam, I have some materials on assessing what people think about science that may be helpful to you maybe for your pre/post assessment - Iglika
Posted 15:59, 17 Jul 2009
Have you used the technique described in Hoskin's paper? I just found this paper during the institute, would be interested to hear your experience. I may be implementing something similar in my study.
Posted 16:00, 17 Jul 2009
You will need to situate your work in the literature/experience of other inquiry based learning/undergraduate research experiences leading to enhanced skills in thinking like scientists. Lots of NSF funded projects on this sort of thing.
Assessment of synthesis and evaluation - why not give "raw" data for students to synthesize and evaluate in parallel with the analysis of paper.
Posted 16:00, 17 Jul 2009
A neat idea. I think that your pre- and post papers are going to need to be quite similar if you want to determine their abilities?????
Posted 16:00, 17 Jul 2009
Interesting question. Do students ever get frustrated in the lab? Will that effect the student attitude and ability to think like a scientist?
Posted 16:00, 17 Jul 2009
Think about the pre-test - to make sure you are not testing their content knowledge, rather than critical thinking skills. This is very interesting to me as well, and maybe we can look for previous work in this field together. - Iglika
Posted 16:01, 17 Jul 2009
which Biology courses are pre-requisites for this upper level course?
Posted 16:01, 17 Jul 2009
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