This editorial recounts highlights from 2013 for CBE—Life Sciences Education and notes activities on the horizon for 2014.
Instructors attempting new teaching methods may have concerns that students will resist nontraditional teaching methods. The authors provide an overview of research characterizing the nature of student resistance and exploring its origins. Additionally, they provide potential strategies for avoiding or addressing resistance and pose questions about resistance that may be ripe for research study.
This Feature describes a National Research Council project centered on educating faculty in the Middle East/North Africa and Asia to use active learning when teaching responsible conduct of science (RCS). It provides insights for faculty in the United States as they engage students in the intricacies of RCS or establish “train-the-trainer” programs at their home institutions.
Numerous studies are demonstrating that engaging undergraduate students in original research can improve their achievement in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and increase the likelihood that some of them will decide to pursue careers in these disciplines. Associated with this increased prominence of research in the undergraduate curriculum are greater expectations from funders, colleges, and universities that faculty mentors will help those students, along with their graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, develop an understanding and sense of personal and collective obligation for responsible conduct of science (RCS). This Feature describes an ongoing National Research Council (NRC) project and a recent report about educating faculty members in culturally diverse settings (Middle East/North Africa and Asia) to employ active-learning strategies to engage their students and colleagues deeply in issues related to RCS. The NRC report describes the first phase of this project, which took place in Aqaba and Amman, Jordan, in September 2012 and April 2013, respectively. Here we highlight the findings from that report and our subsequent experience with a similar interactive institute in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Our work provides insights and perspectives for faculty members in the United States as they engage undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral fellows, to help them better understand the intricacies of and connections among various components of RCS. Further, our experiences can provide insights for those who may wish to establish “train-the-trainer” programs at their home institutions.
This edited volume of essays presents a countermainstream view against genetic underpinnings for cancer, behavior, and psychiatric conditions.
This review presents an overview of some of the common assessment tools available to measure students' attitudes toward learning science. The review also provides widely endorsed, straightforward recommendations for analysis methods with theory and empirical evidence to support analysis plans.
Science educators often characterize the degree to which tests measure different facets of college students’ learning, such as knowing, applying, and problem solving. A casual survey of scholarship of teaching and learning research studies reveals that many educators also measure how students’ attitudes influence their learning. Students’ science attitudes refer to their positive or negative feelings and predispositions to learn science. Science educators use attitude measures, in conjunction with learning measures, to inform the conclusions they draw about the efficacy of their instructional interventions. The measurement of students’ attitudes poses similar but distinct challenges as compared with measurement of learning, such as determining validity and reliability of instruments and selecting appropriate methods for conducting statistical analyses. In this review, we will describe techniques commonly used to quantify students’ attitudes toward science. We will also discuss best practices for the analysis and interpretation of attitude data.
To help institutions collect information on undergraduate teaching practices, the authors developed a new classroom observation protocol known as the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS). This protocol allows college science, technology, engineering, and mathematics faculty, after a short training period, to reliably characterize how faculty and students are spending their time in class.
Instructors and the teaching practices they employ play a critical role in improving student learning in college science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses. Consequently, there is increasing interest in collecting information on the range and frequency of teaching practices at department-wide and institution-wide scales. To help facilitate this process, we present a new classroom observation protocol known as the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM or COPUS. This protocol allows STEM faculty, after a short 1.5-hour training period, to reliably characterize how faculty and students are spending their time in the classroom. We present the protocol, discuss how it differs from existing classroom observation protocols, and describe the process by which it was developed and validated. We also discuss how the observation data can be used to guide individual and institutional change.
The authors present the development of a novel assessment tool, the Biology Card Sorting Task, designed to probe how individuals organize their conceptual knowledge of biology. Results suggest that the task is robust in distinguishing populations of biology experts and novices and represents a useful tool for probing emerging biology conceptual expertise.
There are widespread aspirations to focus undergraduate biology education on teaching students to think conceptually like biologists; however, there is a dearth of assessment tools designed to measure progress from novice to expert biological conceptual thinking. We present the development of a novel assessment tool, the Biology Card Sorting Task, designed to probe how individuals organize their conceptual knowledge of biology. While modeled on tasks from cognitive psychology, this task is unique in its design to test two hypothesized conceptual frameworks for the organization of biological knowledge: 1) a surface feature organization focused on organism type and 2) a deep feature organization focused on fundamental biological concepts. In this initial investigation of the Biology Card Sorting Task, each of six analytical measures showed statistically significant differences when used to compare the card sorting results of putative biological experts (biology faculty) and novices (non–biology major undergraduates). Consistently, biology faculty appeared to sort based on hypothesized deep features, while non–biology majors appeared to sort based on either surface features or nonhypothesized organizational frameworks. Results suggest that this novel task is robust in distinguishing populations of biology experts and biology novices and may be an adaptable tool for tracking emerging biology conceptual expertise.
This paper characterizes in-class discussion of clicker questions among upper-level biology majors, demonstrating that students exchanged ideas in 75% of the recorded clicker discussions, using high-quality reasoning almost 50% of the time. In addition, when cued by the instructor to use reasoning, they engaged in higher-quality discussions.
Previous research has shown that undergraduate science students learn from peer discussions of in-class clicker questions. However, the features that characterize such discussions are largely unknown, as are the instructional factors that may lead students into productive discussions. To explore these questions, we recorded and transcribed 83 discussions among groups of students discussing 34 different clicker questions in an upper-level developmental biology class. Discussion transcripts were analyzed for features such as making claims, questioning, and explaining reasoning. In addition, transcripts were categorized by the quality of reasoning students used and for performance features, such as percent correct on initial vote, percent correct on revote, and normalized learning change. We found that the majority of student discussions included exchanges of reasoning that used evidence and that many such exchanges resulted in students achieving the correct answer. Students also had discussions in which ideas were exchanged, but the correct answer not achieved. Importantly, instructor prompts that asked students to use reasoning resulted in significantly more discussions containing reasoning connected to evidence than without such prompts. Overall, these results suggest that these upper-level biology students readily employ reasoning in their discussions and are positively influenced by instructor cues.
A 17-question Meiosis Concept Inventory (Meiosis CI) was designed, developed, and validated to diagnose student misconceptions on meiosis, a fundamental concept in genetics. The Meiosis CI targets large introductory biology and genetics courses.
We have designed, developed, and validated a 17-question Meiosis Concept Inventory (Meiosis CI) to diagnose student misconceptions on meiosis, which is a fundamental concept in genetics. We targeted large introductory biology and genetics courses and used published methodology for question development, which included the validation of questions by student interviews (n = 28), in-class testing of the questions by students (n = 193), and expert (n = 8) consensus on the correct answers. Our item analysis showed that the questions’ difficulty and discrimination indices were in agreement with published recommended standards and discriminated effectively between high- and low-scoring students. We foresee other institutions using the Meiosis CI as both a diagnostic tool and an instrument to assess teaching effectiveness and student progress, and invite instructors to visit http://q4b.biology.ubc.ca for more information.
The authors present the development and validation of the EvoDevoCI, a concept inventory for evolutionary developmental biology. This CI measures student understanding of six core evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) concepts using four scenarios and 11 multiple-choice items, all inspired by authentic scientific examples. Distracters were designed to represent the common conceptual difficulties students have with each evo-devo concept.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science 2011 report Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education encourages the teaching of developmental biology as an important part of teaching evolution. Recently, however, we found that biology majors often lack the developmental knowledge needed to understand evolutionary developmental biology, or “evo-devo.” To assist in efforts to improve evo-devo instruction among undergraduate biology majors, we designed a concept inventory (CI) for evolutionary developmental biology, the EvoDevoCI. The CI measures student understanding of six core evo-devo concepts using four scenarios and 11 multiple-choice items, all inspired by authentic scientific examples. Distracters were designed to represent the common conceptual difficulties students have with each evo-devo concept. The tool was validated by experts and administered at four institutions to 1191 students during preliminary (n = 652) and final (n = 539) field trials. We used student responses to evaluate the readability, difficulty, discriminability, validity, and reliability of the EvoDevoCI, which included items ranging in difficulty from 0.22–0.55 and in discriminability from 0.19–0.38. Such measures suggest the EvoDevoCI is an effective tool for assessing student understanding of evo-devo concepts and the prevalence of associated common conceptual difficulties among both novice and advanced undergraduate biology majors.
The authors implemented a deliberate practice approach to engage students over the course of a semester in a series of increasingly complex hands-on tasks related to phylogenetic tree construction. Final exam scores, pre- and postconcept surveys, and student feedback support that the approach improved student comprehension of this difficult subject.
One goal of postsecondary education is to assist students in developing expert-level understanding. Previous attempts to encourage expert-level understanding of phylogenetic analysis in college science classrooms have largely focused on isolated, or “one-shot,” in-class activities. Using a deliberate practice instructional approach, we designed a set of five assignments for a 300-level plant systematics course that incrementally introduces the concepts and skills used in phylogenetic analysis. In our assignments, students learned the process of constructing phylogenetic trees through a series of increasingly difficult tasks; thus, skill development served as a framework for building content knowledge. We present results from 5 yr of final exam scores, pre- and postconcept assessments, and student surveys to assess the impact of our new pedagogical materials on student performance related to constructing and interpreting phylogenetic trees. Students improved in their ability to interpret relationships within trees and improved in several aspects related to between-tree comparisons and tree construction skills. Student feedback indicated that most students believed our approach prepared them to engage in tree construction and gave them confidence in their abilities. Overall, our data confirm that instructional approaches implementing deliberate practice address student misconceptions, improve student experiences, and foster deeper understanding of difficult scientific concepts.
This work describes implementation and assessment of an art-based activity that piques undergraduates' curiosity, broadens the ways in which students meaningfully engage with course content and concepts related to human biology, and develops aspects of students' higher-level thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
An activity involving analysis of art in biology courses was designed with the goals of piquing undergraduates’ curiosity, broadening the ways in which college students meaningfully engage with course content and concepts, and developing aspects of students’ higher-level thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. To meet these learning outcomes, the activity had three key components: preparatory readings, firsthand visual analysis of art during a visit to an art museum, and communication of the analysis. Following a presentation on the methodology of visual analysis, students worked in small groups to examine through the disciplinary lens of biology a selection of approximately 12 original artworks related in some manner to love. The groups then developed and presented for class members a mini-exhibition of several pieces addressing one of two questions: 1) whether portrayals of love in art align with the growing understanding of the biology of love or 2) whether the bodily experience of love is universal or, alternatively, is culturally influenced, as is the experience of depression. Evaluation of quantitative and qualitative assessment data revealed that the assignment engaged students, supported development of higher-level thinking skills, and prompted meaningful engagement with course material.
We present an analysis of students' approaches for identifying, resolving, managing, and/or defusing bioethical issues as applied in the design of a science-based course in bioethics.
Columbia University offers two innovative undergraduate science-based bioethics courses for student majoring in biosciences and pre–health studies. The goals of these courses are to introduce future scientists and healthcare professionals to the ethical questions they will confront in their professional lives, thus enabling them to strategically address these bioethical dilemmas. These courses incorporate innovative pedagogical methods, case studies, and class discussions to stimulate the students to think creatively about bioethical issues emerging from new biotechnologies. At the end of each course, each student is required to submit a one-page strategy detailing how he or she would resolve a bioethical dilemma. Based on our experience in teaching these courses and on a qualitative analysis of the students’ reflections, we offer recommendations for creating an undergraduate science-based course in bioethics. General recommendations include: 1) integrating the science of emerging biotechnologies, their ethical ramifications, and contemporary bioethical theories into interactive class sessions; 2) structuring discussion-based classes to stimulate students to consider the impact of their moral intuitions when grappling with bioethical issues; and 3) using specific actual and futuristic case studies to highlight bioethical issues and to help develop creative problem-solving skills. Such a course sparks students’ interests in both science and ethics and helps them analyze bioethical challenges arising from emerging biotechnologies.
This paper addresses the process of career-interest formation as it relates to faculty careers in a diverse cohort of 38 recent biomedical sciences PhD graduates (including 23 women and 18 underrepresented minorities). The authors show that personal values and structural dynamics in the biomedical workforce play strong roles in shaping career interest.
Interest in faculty careers decreases as graduate training progresses; however, the process underlying career-interest formation remains poorly defined. To better understand this process and whether/how it differs across social identity (i.e., race/ethnicity, gender), we conducted focus groups with 38 biomedical scientists who received PhDs between 2006 and 2011, including 23 women and 18 individuals from underrepresented minority (URM) backgrounds. Objective performance and quality of advisor relationships were not significantly different between scientists with high versus low interest in faculty careers. Career interests were fluid and formed in environments that generally lacked structured career development. Vicarious learning shaped similar outcome expectations about academic careers for all scientists; however, women and URMs recounted additional, distinct experiences and expectations. Scientists pursuing faculty careers described personal values, which differed by social identity, as their primary driver. For scientists with low interest in faculty careers, a combination of values, shared across social identity, and structural dynamics of the biomedical workforce (e.g., job market, grant funding, postdoc pay, etc.) played determinative roles. These findings illuminate the complexity of career choice and suggest attracting the best, most diverse academic workforce requires institutional leaders and policy makers go beyond developing individual skill, attending to individuals’ values and promoting institutional and systemic reforms.
Since its founding, CBE–Life Sciences Education has become the go-to place for biology education research and scholarship. Although the journal has always cultivated a broad range of authors, reviewers, and editors, we are pleased to announce that the Genetics Society of America will be joining ASCB as an editorial partner.
An increasing number of resources are becoming available to support the professional development of scientists transitioning to studying science education. CBE-Life Sciences Education is adding to the available professional development resources by launching a new type of essay, titled Research Methods.
A host of simple teaching strategies—referred to as “equitable teaching strategies” and rooted in research on learning—can support biology instructors in striving for classroom equity and in teaching all their students, not just those who are already engaged, already participating, and perhaps already know the biology being taught.
This feature is designed to point CBE—Life Sciences Education readers to current articles of interest in life sciences education as well as more general and noteworthy publications in education research.
This biography of the physicist and science educator Frank Oppenheimer uses his crowning achievement, San Francisco's Exploratorium, as the lens through which to explore his life and work.
Memoirs by the 2012 recipient of the Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education from the American Society for Cell Biology about the establishment of the International Institute for Collaborative Cell Biology and Biochemistry, which wants to inspire a new era of international scientific cooperation by exposing scientists to diverse learning experiences.
I was invited to write this essay on the occasion of my selection as the recipient of the 2012 Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). Receiving this award is an enormous honor. When I read the email announcement for the first time, it was more than a surprise to me, it was unbelievable. I joined ASCB in 1996, when I presented a poster and received a travel award. Since then, I have attended almost every ASCB meeting. I will try to use this essay to share with readers one of the best experiences in my life. Because this is an essay, I take the liberty of mixing some of my thoughts with data in a way that it not usual in scientific writing. I hope that this sacrifice of the format will achieve the goal of conveying what I have learned over the past 20 yr, during which time a group of colleagues and friends created a nexus of knowledge and wisdom. We have worked together to build a network capable of sharing and inspiring science all over the world.