Development of the Genome Consortium on Active Teaching using Next Generation Sequencing (GCAT-SEEK) is described. Workshops, educational modules, assessment resources, data analysis software and computer hardware available for faculty are described.
A national survey of faculty teaching introductory biology laboratory courses uncovered different conceptions of course-based authentic research and identified barriers that prevent the expansion of undergraduate research in courses.
Incorporating authentic research experiences in introductory biology laboratory classes would greatly expand the number of students exposed to the excitement of discovery and the rigor of the scientific process. However, the essential components of an authentic research experience and the barriers to their implementation in laboratory classes are poorly defined. To guide future reform efforts in this area, we conducted a national survey of biology faculty members to determine 1) their definitions of authentic research experiences in laboratory classes, 2) the extent of authentic research experiences currently experienced in their laboratory classes, and 3) the barriers that prevent incorporation of authentic research experiences into these classes. Strikingly, the definitions of authentic research experiences differ among faculty members and tend to emphasize either the scientific process or the discovery of previously unknown data. The low level of authentic research experiences in introductory biology labs suggests that more development and support is needed to increase undergraduate exposure to research experiences. Faculty members did not cite several barriers commonly assumed to impair pedagogical reform; however, their responses suggest that expanded support for development of research experiences in laboratory classes could address the most common barrier.
While course-based research in genomics can generate both knowledge gains and a greater appreciation for how science is done, a significant investment of course time is required to enable students to show gains commensurate to a summer research experience. Nonetheless, this is a very cost-effective way to reach larger numbers of students.
There is widespread agreement that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs should provide undergraduates with research experience. Practical issues and limited resources, however, make this a challenge. We have developed a bioinformatics project that provides a course-based research experience for students at a diverse group of schools and offers the opportunity to tailor this experience to local curriculum and institution-specific student needs. We assessed both attitude and knowledge gains, looking for insights into how students respond given this wide range of curricular and institutional variables. While different approaches all appear to result in learning gains, we find that a significant investment of course time is required to enable students to show gains commensurate to a summer research experience. An alumni survey revealed that time spent on a research project is also a significant factor in the value former students assign to the experience one or more years later. We conclude: 1) implementation of a bioinformatics project within the biology curriculum provides a mechanism for successfully engaging large numbers of students in undergraduate research; 2) benefits to students are achievable at a wide variety of academic institutions; and 3) successful implementation of course-based research experiences requires significant investment of instructional time for students to gain full benefit.
A model for integrating course-based research with community genome annotation efforts at model organism databases is presented. Disseminating gene function discoveries directly to an interested audience increased student motivation to more deeply engage all aspects of an authentic research experience.
Use of inquiry-based research modules in the classroom has soared over recent years, largely in response to national calls for teaching that provides experience with scientific processes and methodologies. To increase the visibility of in-class studies among interested researchers and to strengthen their impact on student learning, we have extended the typical model of inquiry-based labs to include a means for targeted dissemination of student-generated discoveries. This initiative required: 1) creating a set of research-based lab activities with the potential to yield results that a particular scientific community would find useful and 2) developing a means for immediate sharing of student-generated results. Working toward these goals, we designed guides for course-based research aimed to fulfill the need for functional annotation of the Tetrahymena thermophila genome, and developed an interactive Web database that links directly to the official Tetrahymena Genome Database for immediate, targeted dissemination of student discoveries. This combination of research via the course modules and the opportunity for students to immediately “publish” their novel results on a Web database actively used by outside scientists culminated in a motivational tool that enhanced students’ efforts to engage the scientific process and pursue additional research opportunities beyond the course.
This study examines student perceived gains from an undergraduate research experience (URE) program, using data from pre-, mid-, and postparticipation surveys. Results suggest that students experienced different gains at developmentally different stages of their UREs and reported gains in fewer areas at the end of the Summer segment than at end of the yearlong experience.
The current study examines the trajectories of student perceived gains as a result of time spent in an undergraduate research experience (URE). Data for the study come from a survey administered at three points over a 1-yr period: before participation in the program, at the end of a Summer segment of research, and at the end of the year. Repeated-measures analysis of variance was used to examine the effect of time on perceived gains in student research skills, research confidence, and understanding of research processes. The results suggest that the students experienced different gains/benefits at developmentally different stages of their UREs. Participants reported gains in fewer areas at the end of the Summer segment compared with the end of the yearlong experience, thus supporting the notion that longer UREs offer students more benefit.
This study evaluates the reliability and validity of an instrument for quantitatively assessing project ownership in undergraduate laboratory learning experiences.
A growing body of research documents the positive outcomes of research experiences for undergraduates, including increased persistence in science. Study of undergraduate lab learning experiences has demonstrated that the design of the experience influences the extent to which students report ownership of the project and that project ownership is one of the psychosocial factors involved in student retention in the sciences. To date, methods for measuring project ownership have not been suitable for the collection of larger data sets. The current study aims to rectify this by developing, presenting, and evaluating a new instrument for measuring project ownership. Eighteen scaled items were generated based on prior research and theory related to project ownership and combined with 30 items shown to measure respondents’ emotions about an experience, resulting in the Project Ownership survey (POS). The POS was analyzed to determine its dimensionality, reliability, and validity. The POS had a coefficient alpha of 0.92 and thus has high internal consistency. Known-groups validity was analyzed through the ability of the instrument to differentiate between students who studied in traditional versus research-based laboratory courses. The POS scales as differentiated between the groups and findings paralleled previous results in relation to the characteristics of project ownership.
Six years after the initial Vision and Change conversations, it is important to try to determine the extent of dissemination and implementation of the initiative. There is good evidence of use by some segments of the biology community; however, there is less use of Vision and Change principles or even acknowledgment of its existence within other segments.
Understanding the relationship between form and function is critical for appreciating biology at the molecular level. This feature explores online materials that connect molecular structures with their functional relevance.
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 report presents a summary of a meeting on assessment of course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs), including an operational definition of a CURE, a summary of research on CUREs, relevant findings from studies of undergraduate research internships, and recommendations for future research on and evaluation of CUREs.
The Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences Network (CUREnet) was initiated in 2012 with funding from the National Science Foundation program for Research Coordination Networks in Undergraduate Biology Education. CUREnet aims to address topics, problems, and opportunities inherent to integrating research experiences into undergraduate courses. During CUREnet meetings and discussions, it became apparent that there is need for a clear definition of what constitutes a CURE and systematic exploration of what makes CUREs meaningful in terms of student learning. Thus, we assembled a small working group of people with expertise in CURE instruction and assessment to: 1) draft an operational definition of a CURE, with the aim of defining what makes a laboratory course or project a “research experience”; 2) summarize research on CUREs, as well as findings from studies of undergraduate research internships that would be useful for thinking about how students are influenced by participating in CUREs; and 3) identify areas of greatest need with respect to CURE assessment, and directions for future research on and evaluation of CUREs. This report summarizes the outcomes and recommendations of this meeting.
A response to Maskiewicz and Lineback's essay in the September 2013 issue of CBE-Life Sciences Education.
Existing methods for analyzing pre/posttest data can lead to incorrect conclusions, as they do not control for student academic ability and preparation. Using an example data set from an introductory biology course, this paper shows how regression models offer a solution to this problem.
Although researchers in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education are currently using several methods to analyze learning gains from pre- and posttest data, the most commonly used approaches have significant shortcomings. Chief among these is the inability to distinguish whether differences in learning gains are due to the effect of an instructional intervention or to differences in student characteristics when students cannot be assigned to control and treatment groups at random. Using pre- and posttest scores from an introductory biology course, we illustrate how the methods currently in wide use can lead to erroneous conclusions, and how multiple linear regression offers an effective framework for distinguishing the impact of an instructional intervention from the impact of student characteristics on test score gains. In general, we recommend that researchers always use student-level regression models that control for possible differences in student ability and preparation to estimate the effect of any nonrandomized instructional intervention on student performance.
The authors examined individual development plan (IDP) awareness and use, the benefits of creating an IDP, and ways to facilitate IDP use by administering surveys to postdoctoral researchers, mentors, and administrators.
Individual development plans (IDPs) have been promoted nationally as a tool to help research trainees explore career opportunities and set career goals. Despite the interest in IDPs from a policy perspective, there is little information about how they have been used. The authors examined IDP awareness and use, the benefits of creating an IDP, and ways to facilitate its use by administering a survey to current or former postdoctoral researchers via the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) and University of Alabama at Birmingham email lists; individuals belonging to Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology member societies who mentored postdocs; and postdoctoral administrators at member institutions of the Association of American Medical Colleges and the NPA. Although most postdoctoral administrators (>80%) were familiar with IDPs, less than 50% of postdocs and only 20% of mentors were aware of IDPs. For those postdocs and mentors who reported creating an IDP, the process helped postdocs to identify the skills and abilities necessary for career success and facilitated communication between postdocs and their mentors. Despite the fact that creating an IDP benefits postdocs and mentors, IDP use will likely remain low unless institutions and research mentors encourage trainees to engage in this process.
The authors designed and taught an introductory molecular and cell biology course integrating math and biology throughout the course, and designed a pre/postcourse assessment to measure student gains on biology and bio-math concepts. Students in the experimental section made greater gains on bio-math and comparable gains on biology assessment items than did students in other sections.
Recent calls for improving undergraduate biology education have emphasized the importance of students learning to apply quantitative skills to biological problems. Motivated by students’ apparent inability to transfer their existing quantitative skills to biological contexts, we designed and taught an introductory molecular and cell biology course in which we integrated application of prerequisite mathematical skills with biology content and reasoning throughout all aspects of the course. In this paper, we describe the principles of our course design and present illustrative examples of course materials integrating mathematics and biology. We also designed an outcome assessment made up of items testing students’ understanding of biology concepts and their ability to apply mathematical skills in biological contexts and administered it as a pre/postcourse test to students in the experimental section and other sections of the same course. Precourse results confirmed students’ inability to spontaneously transfer their prerequisite mathematics skills to biological problems. Pre/postcourse outcome assessment comparisons showed that, compared with students in other sections, students in the experimental section made greater gains on integrated math/biology items. They also made comparable gains on biology items, indicating that integrating quantitative skills into an introductory biology course does not have a deleterious effect on students’ biology learning.
While emphasis is often placed on assessing students' conceptual knowledge, less has been placed on investigating affective aspects of student biology learning. In this paper, we explore self-efficacy, sense of belonging, and science identity, as well as emerging assessment tools to monitor these dimensions of students' learning.
The Genetic Drift Inventory is a multiple true–false format concept inventory consisting of 22 statements. It tests how well upper-division undergraduate biology students grasp four key concepts, while simultaneously testing for the presence of six misconceptions.
Understanding genetic drift is crucial for a comprehensive understanding of biology, yet it is difficult to learn because it combines the conceptual challenges of both evolution and randomness. To help assess strategies for teaching genetic drift, we have developed and evaluated the Genetic Drift Inventory (GeDI), a concept inventory that measures upper-division students’ understanding of this concept. We used an iterative approach that included extensive interviews and field tests involving 1723 students across five different undergraduate campuses. The GeDI consists of 22 agree–disagree statements that assess four key concepts and six misconceptions. Student scores ranged from 4/22 to 22/22. Statements ranged in mean difficulty from 0.29 to 0.80 and in discrimination from 0.09 to 0.46. The internal consistency, as measured with Cronbach's alpha, ranged from 0.58 to 0.88 across five iterations. Test–retest analysis resulted in a coefficient of stability of 0.82. The true–false format means that the GeDI can test how well students grasp key concepts central to understanding genetic drift, while simultaneously testing for the presence of misconceptions that indicate an incomplete understanding of genetic drift. The insights gained from this testing will, over time, allow us to improve instruction about this key component of evolution.
To help students understand and apply basic biological concepts in a challenging and interactive format, this study focused on the development, effectiveness, and evaluation of an educational card game. The test supported that the use of this educational card game is more effective than the traditional method. The students perceived that the material is “very satisfactory.”
The complex concepts and vocabulary of biology classes discourage many students. In this study, a pretest–posttest model was used to test the effectiveness of an educational card game in reinforcing biological concepts in comparison with traditional teaching methods. The subjects of this study were two biology classes at Bulacan State University–Sarmiento Campus. Both classes received conventional instruction; however, the experimental group's instruction was supplemented with the card game, while the control group's instruction was reinforced with traditional exercises and assignments. The score increases from pretest to posttest showed that both methods effectively reinforced biological concepts, but a t test showed that the card game is more effective than traditional teaching methods. Additionally, students from the experimental group evaluated the card game using five criteria: goals, design, organization, playability, and usefulness. The students rated the material very satisfactory.
This study compared three plagiarism-avoidance training formats (i.e., no training, online tutorial, or homework assignment) in several undergraduate ecology courses. The authors found that students trained with the homework assignment more successfully identified plagiarism or the lack thereof than did untrained students or students trained with the online tutorial.
Online plagiarism tutorials are increasingly popular in higher education, as faculty and staff try to curb the plagiarism epidemic. Yet no research has validated the efficacy of such tools in minimizing plagiarism in the sciences. Our study compared three plagiarism-avoidance training regimens (i.e., no training, online tutorial, or homework assignment) and their impacts on students’ ability to accurately discriminate plagiarism from text that is properly quoted, paraphrased, and attributed. Using pre- and postsurveys of 173 undergraduate students in three general ecology courses, we found that students given the homework assignment had far greater success in identifying plagiarism or the lack thereof compared with students given no training. In general, students trained with the homework assignment more successfully identified plagiarism than did students trained with the online tutorial. We also found that the summative assessment associated with the plagiarism-avoidance training formats (i.e., homework grade and online tutorial assessment score) did not correlate with student improvement on surveys through time.
Teacher-driven action research in the high school biology classroom reveals effective instructional and assessment strategies for guiding students to integrate their ideas about the skills and practices necessary for scientific inquiry. Implications for inquiry-based teaching and research in undergraduate life sciences courses are discussed.
New approaches for teaching and assessing scientific inquiry and practices are essential for guiding students to make the informed decisions required of an increasingly complex and global society. The Science Skills approach described here guides students to develop an understanding of the experimental skills required to perform a scientific investigation. An individual teacher's investigation of the strategies and tools she designed to promote scientific inquiry in her classroom is outlined. This teacher-driven action research in the high school biology classroom presents a simple study design that allowed for reciprocal testing of two simultaneous treatments, one that aimed to guide students to use vocabulary to identify and describe different scientific practices they were using in their investigations—for example, hypothesizing, data analysis, or use of controls—and another that focused on scientific collaboration. A knowledge integration (KI) rubric was designed to measure how students integrated their ideas about the skills and practices necessary for scientific inquiry. KI scores revealed that student understanding of scientific inquiry increased significantly after receiving instruction and using assessment tools aimed at promoting development of specific inquiry skills. General strategies for doing classroom-based action research in a straightforward and practical way are discussed, as are implications for teaching and evaluating introductory life sciences courses at the undergraduate level.
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.