Cross-Disciplinary Undergraduate Research

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Title of Abstract: Cross-Disciplinary Undergraduate Research

Name of Author: Linnea Fletcher
Author Company or Institution: Austin Community College
Author Title: Department Chair Biotechnology
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Biotechnology, Ecology and Environmental Biology, Undergraduate Research
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum
Approaches: Mixed Approach
Keywords: student-centered, hands-on, Ccuri,

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Patricia Phelps, Austin Community College George Staff PhD, Austin Community College Sulatha Dwarakanath, Austin Community College

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: * To make science and math courses more student-centered and hands-on for the purpose of engaging them better and accelerating their learning. * To offer cross-disciplinary undergraduate research opportunities to students for the purpose of showing students the breath of science and math and effectively share resources whether it is knowledge, personnel, equipment or supplies. * To develop long-term research projects share across disciplines to integrate curricula for students. * To embed both of the above goals within the assessment and evaluation cycle at the college so that program improvement is evidence-based. * Integrate Core Concepts and Competencies throughout the Curriculum * All courses are required to have learning objectives and linked student assessment to these objectives * Abstract concepts in biology are linked to real-world examples on a regular basis in all courses in Biology, Biotechnology, Environmental Sciences and even in Math courses * Soft skills are emphasized as much as content and laboratory skills so that students are encouraged to be lifelong learners * Curricula is more context-based with an emphasis on real-life applications

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: Community colleges have traditionally focused on teaching and therefore many of them have changed their teaching practices to student-centered long before it was introduced at 4-year institutions. This is especially true in community college workforce programs as student centered education is necessary for making students workforce ready. Related to Vision and Change goals, this is what is currently done at ACC: Focus on Student-Centered Learning Examples of student-centered learning at ACC are as follows: * The flipped classroom and the Biology Emporium * ‘Applied Math’ Pathways instead of Theoretical Algebra * Undergraduate Research * Cross-Disciplinary * Career Exploration Engage the Biology Community in the Implementation of Change * The undergraduate research course piloted in the Biotechnology Department is being transferred to the Biology Department. * Coursework has moved away from memorizing text to mastery of conceptual knowledge so that students can successfully apply their knowledge to new problems and projects. Promote a Campus-wide Commitment to Change * The commitment to undergraduate research is located in the Division of Science and Math and not just in one department. * The commitment to student-centered education is college wide. It is embedded within the college’s self-evaluation processes from student services through instructional departments, and it is embedded within the professional development programs provided to faculty.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: The field-oriented Environmental Science and Technology courses require that students complete field and laboratory projects that require knowledge of how to use the equipment and instruments to successfully complete the projects. Biology and Biotechnology: Students were initially evaluated for basic technique and knowledge. Based on the outcomes of the evaluation, students participated in a Boot Camp to ensure competency on basic biotechnology equipment, basic biology knowledge, and knowledge related to scientific discovery. Students researched and presented on their choice of research projects to a panel of faculty and students. Based on the outcomes of this presentation, students proceeded with a project. At the end of the semester, students presented their project to a panel of students and faculty. All students participated in the CUR research questionnaire

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: * Increased enrollment in participating programs * Increased student retention in participating programs * Accelerated learning and obtainment of soft skills, technical skills and content knowledge that will improve a student’s chance of transferring to a 4-year school or gaining a related workforce position. * The addition of research projects to the existing environmental science courses is anticipated to increase student engagement/understanding of science. The prospect of doing research has also increased faculty/staff interest in improving the existing course content.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: The two main barriers are supply costs and the ability to mentor a large group of students.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: Move the Undergraduate Research Course to Biology so that a broader student audience is reached at the community college. Once moved, also make it a dual credit course so high school students can take it.

Acknowledgements: Dr David Fonken, who has supported us in our efforts