Converting Advanced Lab Courses to Research Collaborations

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Title of Abstract: Converting Advanced Lab Courses to Research Collaborations

Name of Author: Douglas Chalker
Author Company or Institution: Washington University
Author Title: Associate Professor
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Cell Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, Plant Biology & Botany, Virology
Course Levels: Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Mixed Approach
Keywords: Classroom Research CURE Survey Advanced Laboratory Faculty development active inquiry

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Sarah Elgin, Washington University in St Louis

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Engaging students in authentic research experiences improves persistence and success in STEM majors and careers. Participation in research is also correlated with improved critical thinking and deeper conceptual understanding of science. To provide as many research opportunities as possible, most biology laboratory courses are now structured as investigative experiences in which students undertake original, collaborative research projects.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: Biology Department Faculty are encouraged to incorporate research projects based on their own research interests into the lab courses that they teach. The success of this approach by a few has encouraged other faculty to develop new courses or redesign previously existing ones in this manner. Almost all current Biology laboratory offerings have investigative components. Class-based, original research experiences encompassing a broad range of subjects (e.g. bioinformatics, molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, immunology and ecology) are now available to a large percentage of our biology majors. Some inquiry-based modules were designed by graduate or post-doctoral teaching assistants, which provided important professional development for this next generation of educators. In Prof. S.C.R. Elgin’s bioinformatics lab (Biology 4342), students are provided a ~40kbp segment of DNA sequence from an ongoing genome project and are asked to suggest needed finishing sequencing and then annotate the region. In Prof. D.L. Chalker’s cell biology lab (Biology 3492), students functionally characterize their own unstudied gene predicted from the genome sequence of the model ciliate Tetrahymena. Students clone their chosen gene, make and describe the localization of a fluorescent protein fusion to the gene’s coding region among other studies.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: In these courses, student data are used to update scientific databases and have been distributed through research publications, with enrolled students acknowledged or recognized as authors, demonstrating that students in class investigative labs can contribute novel research findings (2-5). With professors teaching closely aligned with areas of research interest, they are intellectually engaged, benefit in a tangible manner from the time investment, and are better able to communicate their passion for science. As judged by teaching evaluations and exit surveys, these courses are among students’ favorites from among our offerings. Assessment data collected over four years (n=37) using the Classroom Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) survey in one course (Biology 3492) revealed clear gains in students’ understanding of the research process, readiness for more demanding research, understanding how scientists approach real world problems, and the ability to analyze data. Gains in this course compared favorably to the gains noted in a parallel survey of independent undergraduate research experiences (SURE). In addition, course-based research experiences provide other student growth opportunities in areas that are complementary to those that result from independent mentored research, such as science writing and oral presentation.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Overall, our experiences indicate that encouraging integration of faculty research with teaching can promote the adoption of innovative curriculum, help transform teaching practice throughout a department or other community, and motivate faculty members to promote the most effective pedagogy beyond their own institution.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: One of the biggest challenges is encountered in assessing the effectiveness of this pedagogy. Discipline faculty are not trained in educational assessment and have limited time to develop these skills. Similar challenges are found in dissemination as encouraging faculty at other institutions to adopt this strategy can be difficult without administrative by-in. Seeking outside funding for dissemination can help meet this need as it removes budgetary concerns from the administration.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: In addition to wide adoption of this strategy in the Biology department, several faculty members are engaged in efforts to disseminate their curricula to other institutions. The most successful initiative has been the Genomics Education Partnership (https://gep.wustl.edu) (1), based on Biology 4342, which has been disseminated widely. A second model for dissemination is the Ciliate Genomics Consortium, based on Biology 3492 curriculum, which brings together members of an existing research community to form a professional learning community to implement effective teaching strategies.

Acknowledgements: References: 1. Lopatto, D., et al. 2008. Undergraduate research. Science 322:684-5. 2. Malone, C. D., et al. 2005. Mol Cell Biol 25:9151-64. 3. Malone, C. D., et al. 2008. Eukaryot Cell 7:1487-99. 4. Shaffer, Cet al.. 2010. CBE Life Sci Educ 9:55-69. 5. Leung et al 2010, Genetics 185:1519-1534. Acknowledgements: This abstract reports the efforts of many colleagues: Drs. J Jez, R. Kranz, E, Herzog, B. Carlson,and L. Strader, D. Mendez, and S. Horrell. Funding was provided by HHMI and NSF grants to Washington University or the listed professors.

The Genomics Education Partnership: Shared Research

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Title of Abstract: The Genomics Education Partnership: Shared Research

Name of Author: Sarah C R Elgin
Author Company or Institution: Washington University in St Louis
Author Title: Professor
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, Evolutionary Biology, Genetics
Course Levels: Independent study / research, Introductory Course(s), Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.)
Keywords: bioinformatics comparative genomics eukaryotic genes/genomes research lab course collaborative network

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The Genomics Education Partnership (GEP) was founded in 2006 to provide undergraduates with an opportunity to participate in a large-scale genomics research project. By incorporating genomics research into the undergraduate curriculum, the GEP faculty members can provide a research experience for a larger number of students than can generally be accommodated in a traditional summer research program. Our major research goal has been to examine the evolution of the ‘dot’ chromosome (Muller F element) of Drosophila, an unusual domain that exhibits both heterochromatic and euchromatic properties. (Our first publication is Leung, W. et al. 2010 Genetics 185: 1519-1534, Evolution of a distinct genomic domain in Drosophila: Comparative analysis of the dot chromosome in Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila virilis. Our second publication, in preparation, will have ~500 student and ~50 faculty co-authors.) Future projects will focus on the expansion of the F element in a subgroup of species, and on the search for conserved motifs specific to this element and its genes.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: Bioinformatics research typically requires only access to computers and the Internet, and thus has lower costs and fewer lab safety concerns than most life science research. While GEP faculty members teach students a common set of bioinformatics protocols, each student in the class applies their knowledge to a unique region of a genome, taking responsibility for their own project. We find that students can effectively acquire many bioinformatics skills through peer instruction, allowing a team approach to the research. A genomics-based course has the advantage that a central website (maintained by W. Leung and C.D. Shaffer, Washington University in St Louis) can support the efforts of a large number of faculty and their students across the country, providing cost-effective implementation. An anonymous survey of the GEP faculty has shown that this central support is of critical importance in enabling the faculty to introduce this novel, research-centered curriculum to their campuses.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: To assess the undergraduate experience, students are asked to take a pre/post course quiz and survey. The quiz tests student knowledge of eukaryotic genes and genomes. The survey examines science-related attitudes, and includes 20 questions that are identical to the nationally utilized Survey of Undergraduate Research Experiences. All research projects (~40 kb segments of the domain of interest) are completed at least twice independently by students at different schools, and the results reconciled. Final results are submitted to GenBank and connected to FlyBase.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Student members of the GEP have improved over 7 megabases of sequence (from the F element, and a euchromatic reference region at the base of the D element) and produced more than 1,000 manually curated gene models, as well as annotating other features of these domains. Last year over 1000 students from 54 colleges and universities participated in GEP-affiliated lab courses. Student results for four Drosophila species are currently being assembled and analyzed to better understand the evolution of this domain (manuscript in preparation). Students show significant gains on the quiz, which tests their understanding of the structure and function of eukaryotic genes and genomes. Their responses on the CURE survey are generally the same or better than responses from students who have spent a summer in a mentored research experience, assessed by the parallel SURE survey (supervised by D. Lopatto, Grinnell College). The pedagogical results confirm and extend our prior findings (Lopatto et al. 2008 Science 322: 684-85, Undergraduate Research: Genomics Education Partnership; Shaffer et al. 2010 CBE-Life Sci Educ 9: 55-69, The Genomics Education Partnership: Successful integration of research into laboratory classes at a diverse group of undergraduate institutions). Positive responses on the quiz and survey show little correlation with characteristics of the home institution (e.g. private vs. public, school size, etc.), but do correlate with the amount of time that the faculty member can schedule for GEP-related work (lecture/discussion plus lab time); more time enables a more beneficial research experience. As GEP member schools are very diverse, these results are consistent with the interpretation that students from all backgrounds, working in a variety of settings, will benefit from participating in a research-based lab course.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: While a centralized project such as that run by the GEP is an excellent way for faculty to begin teaching research-based laboratory courses, ultimately one would like that research to be directly tied to the research interests of the individual faculty member. Better bioinformatics interfaces (for example, an easy route for loading a new genome into a browser such as the UCSC Browser) are needed to reach this goal.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: Since its inception, the GEP has grown substantially, and now has over 100 partner schools (see current members at https://gep.wustl.edu). Members join by attending a 3 - 5 day workshop at Washington University. All curriculum is freely available on the GEP website under a Creative Commons license. We find that the collaborative nature of a shared research effort helps to make this an enjoyable and effective way to teach. The results suggest that such national projects are cost-effective, can have a widespread impact on life-science teaching, and should be supported in greater number.

Acknowledgements: I thank all faculty members of the GEP (see https://gep.wustl.edu/community/current_members) and their students; Jeremy Buhler, Elaine Mardis, Chris Shaffer, and Wilson Leung, all of Washington University; and David Lopatto, Grinnell College, for their participation in this project. This work has been supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through grant #52007051 to SCRE and by Washington University in St Louis.

Inquiry-Based Genomics Lab Module Collection

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Title of Abstract: Inquiry-Based Genomics Lab Module Collection

Name of Author: Lois Banta
Author Company or Institution: Williams College
Author Title: Associate Professor
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Cell Biology, Ecology and Environmental Biology, Evolutionary Biology, General Biology, Genetics, Integrative Biology, Microbiology, Neuroscience, Organismal Biology, Physiology & Anatomy, Plant Biology & Botany, Virology
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum, Faculty Development, Introductory Course(s), Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Material Development
Keywords: inquiry-based integrative genomics bioinformatics faculty-development

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Erica J. Crespi, Vassar College Ross H. Nehm, Ohio State University Jodi A. Schwarz, Vassar College Susan Singer, Carleton College Cathryn A. Manduca, Carleton College Eliot C. Bush, Harvey Mudd College Elizabeth Collins, Vassar College Cara M. Constance, Hiram College Derek Dean, Williams College David Esteban, Vassar College Sean Fox, Carleton College John McDaris, Carleton College Carol Ann Paul, Wellesley College Ginny Quinan, Wellesley College Kathleen M. Raley-Susman, Vassar College Marc L. Smith, Vassar College Christopher S. Wallace, Whitman College Ginger S. Withers, Whitman College Lynn Caporale, Consultant

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The integration of genomic and bioinformatic approaches into undergraduate curricula represents one response to the national calls for biology teaching that is more quantitative and that promotes deeper understanding of biological systems through interdisciplinary analyses. Yet relatively few of the faculty members who teach undergraduate biology have expertise in the fields of genomics or bioinformatics. For these instructors, designing new teaching labs in a field that is developing so rapidly can feel particularly daunting. Our genomics education initiative was designed to address the challenges of helping faculty members integrate genome-scale science into the undergraduate classroom.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: The project utilized a grassroots model for faculty development, by supporting a national consortium of faculty members from eight liberal arts colleges in 1) learning about genomics and bioinformatics; 2) developing curriculum and laboratory teaching materials that stem from their own research and/or teaching interests, and that are informed by research in the learning sciences; and 3) devising tools to evaluate the efficacy of their genomics curricular innovations. Three workshops over three years supported these goals through a combination of learning from expertise within the participating group and from outside expertise on specific topics. The workshops brought together a total of 34 faculty participants from 19 institutions to develop a set of lab modules containing a substantial genomics component. Building on a proven faculty development model formulated by the geoscience education community, we complemented the multi-workshop program with a web-based interactive information portal. The initiative was structured such that the iterative interactions resulting from our three-workshop series would allow participants to share the experience of curriculum development, from the inception of an idea for a curricular module to the assessment of the implementation of that module, thereby generating a community of genomics educators among undergraduate institutions in the process. In addition, by bringing together educators from different institutions and scientific backgrounds, we aimed to stimulate discussion of interdisciplinary approaches to teaching genomics and facilitate the establishment of collaborations with other colleges and universities.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Products include peer-reviewed, guided inquiry-based, integrated instructional units (I3Us) adaptable to a range of teaching settings, with a focus on both model and non-model systems. Each curricular module is built on vetted design principles: (1) they have clear pedagogical objectives; (2) they are integrated with lessons taught in the lecture; (3) they are designed to integrate the learning of science content with learning about the process of science; and (4) they require student reflection and discussion (National Research Council, America’s Lab Report, Committee on High School Science Laboratories: Role and Vision; 2005). Each I3U was peer reviewed by fellow participants, as well as by a professional project consultant who has extensive experience with web-based description of teaching materials using this format to ensure that the I3U met the design criteria articulated above, and to evaluate whether the Activity Sheet provided both an easily accessible overview of the content and enough detailed information for other instructors to adapt and implement the material and its associated assessment strategies.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Eleven I3Us were designed and implemented as multi-week modules within the context of an existing biology course (e.g., Microbiology, Comparative Anatomy, Introduction to Neurobiology); an additional three I3Us were incorporated into interdisciplinary Biology/Computer Science classes. Although these I3Us were designed for courses currently taught by the project participant within the specific institution’s curriculum, we propose that they can be inserted into other courses that encompass similar content and/or learning goals. We have received numerous communications from colleagues at other institutions who have adapted our I3Us for their courses.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Many participants lacked expertise needed to analyze sequence data or design wet labs and were overwhelmed by the array of possible tools, deciding which tools were useful in which scientific contexts, and the challenges of mastering their user interfaces. Some were concerned about teaching material with which they had little previous scientific experience. Most were isolated from colleagues who shared their interest or had the needed expertise to support their initial learning in this area. We provided hands-on training in three intensive days of short workshops, enabling participants to become familiar with bioinformatic tools for finding sequences, predicting the structure of proteins, visualizing and comparing genomes, and constructing phylogenetic trees. Participants who needed significantly more time to explore the tools and develop self-sufficiency maintained communication with at least one of the presenters over the course of the year, to obtain more training and to get ideas. For many, adapting bioinformatics tools into their modules was more easily accomplished by asking phylogenetic questions rather than adapting tools that could be used to explore genome-level questions of gene function or structure. The greatest challenge was that no robust assessment system, characterized by valid and reliable instruments evaluated by experts in education and psychometrics, existed to assess the efficacy of newly developed genomics and bioinformatics curricula. To help faculty build assessment tools, we provided: (1) A professional development session for faculty participants that reviewed the basics of educational assessment and the types of tools that could be employed in assessment efforts; (2) Individualized consultations to help participants build their assessments; and (3) Individualized consultations with faculty to assist in the interpretation of assessment data derived from point (2) above.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: All modules, together with extensive supporting material, are accessible on a dedicated website (https://serc.carleton.edu/genomics/activities.html) that also provides links to bioinformatics tools and on-line assessment and pedagogical resources, as well as all presentations from all three workshops, pre- and post-workshop content, and suggested readings provided by workshop leaders. The project website serves as a portal to Activity Sheets describing each I3U; these Activity Sheets include learning goals, teaching tips, and links to teaching materials, as well as downloadable assessment tools, that can be customized by any interested educator. Information about the collection of I3Us has been disseminated via publication.

Acknowledgements: This information has been published previously (Cell Biology Education-Life Science Education 11:203-208; 2012). The project was funded by the Teagle Foundation, with supplemental support from Williams College, Vassar College, and Schering-Plough.

Molecular Biology Simulations for Case Based Learning

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Title of Abstract: Molecular Biology Simulations for Case Based Learning

Name of Author: Karen Klyczek
Author Company or Institution: University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Author Title: Professor
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Agricultural Sciences, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, Cell Biology, Evolutionary Biology, General Biology, Genetics, Immunology, Integrative Biology, Microbiology, Virology
Course Levels: Introductory Course(s), Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development
Keywords: computer simulations case studies bioinformatics molecular biology

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Mark Bergland, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Our goal is to facilitate case studies and other active learning strategies via development of computer simulations of molecular biology lab techniques. This project addresses Vision and Change recommendation to relate biology concepts to real-world examples and make biology content relevant for students. The NSF-funded Case It project has produced case studies mainly in genetic and infectious diseases, in which students use simulation software to analyze authentic DNA and proteins sequences associated with the cases. By analyzing these cases, students address several core competencies, including applying the process of science, using quantitative reasoning, using modeling and simulation, and understanding the relationship between science and society. Based in part on the recommendations in the Vision and Change report, we have developed materials designed to prepare students for research projects involving bioinformatics analysis, to extend the existing case studies and for use with student-generated experiments. The software and materials are made available free of charge on the Case It web site (www.caseitproject.org) and have been used by secondary and undergraduate schools worldwide. Case It was awarded a 2011 Science Prize for Inquiry-based Instruction (Bergland et al. 2012, Science 337, 426 (2012).

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: Case It is an open-ended simulation that reads any nucleotide or amino acid sequence file, and includes methods for analyzing DNA and proteins. These methods include restriction digestion and mapping, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA electrophoresis, Southern blotting and dot blotting, microarray analysis, protein electrophoresis, Western blotting, and ELISA. Bioinformatics capabilities (sequence alignment, tree building) have been added via integration with MEGA software. The download includes the simulation as well as all of the sequences necessary to run the cases described on the web site. The case descriptions can be viewed from the Case It home page or downloaded as a pdf file. Students read case scenarios and explore background information for the case. They then use the simulation to open sequence files associated with the case and run the appropriate procedure to analyze the sequences, generating results in the form of images that can then be incorporated into presentations or reports. At the introductory-biology level, students can assume roles of persons in the cases, such as health-care professionals, lab technicians, researchers, or hypothetical family members. They then discuss results either in person or online. The open-ended nature of the simulation encourages inquiry by enabling users to analyze any DNA sequence, including entire viral or bacterial genomes, with any probe, primer, or restriction enzyme. For example, freshmen at UWRF participating in the HHMI Science Education Alliance PHAGES project use the Case It simulation to generate virtual digests of known phage genomes for comparison with actual gels of their newly discovered phages.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Assessment of the use of the Case It materials has demonstrated that it provides an active and collaborative learning environment that engages and motivates students. Pre- and post testing as well as individual and focus group interviews were used to assess its impact on student learning and perceptions in courses at several institutions in the United States and Puerto Rico. In all courses, students demonstrated significant learning gains as a result of using the simulation to analyze case studies involving bioinformatics analysis. In addition, students reported that the activities allowed them to explore science concepts from multiple perspectives in a real world context. The instructor-independent efficacy demonstrated in these studies indicates that the use of Case It materials has the potential to be scalable in a variety of institution types.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Since 2012, the Case It software has been used by more than 10,000 students at 60 schools around the world. It was downloaded by many more faculty, from 105 different countries, so there is likely to be additional use that we have not been able to document. When we have assessed the impact on students in classes as described above, students using Case It showed improved post-test scores, and students' confidence in their knowledge also increased (Wolter et al., 2012, J Sci Educ Technol DOI 10.1007/s10956-012-9387-7). Faculty involved in software development, case writing, and assessment have been able to cite this work as scholarly activity for retention, promotion and tenure purposes.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Barriers to implementation of the Case It software include the need for faculty training in the use of the simulation. To address this issue, we have given many workshops at professional meetings and at the invitation of biology departments. We also have developed screencast tutorials that are posted on the web site. The web site also includes discussion forums where questions about the use of the simulation can be addressed. Finally, we are exploring the development of mobile applications of the software for use on tablets and other devices.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: We have given over 50 presentations, including workshops, oral presentations, and posters, at science education meetings in a variety of venues. In 2013 so far, we have presented at the NSF/AAAS TUES conference, American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators, Science Case Network conference, and HHMI Quantitative Biology/BioQUEST workshop. We no longer have grant funding, but still plan to present at conferences as funding allows. Limited travel funds are available through the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and from conference organizers when we are invited to present. We have published several papers describing strategies for implementing Case It and assessing its effectiveness, in Science, the Journal of Science Education Technology, American Biology Teacher, and others. In 2011 we joined the Science Case Network RCN-UBE project, and are collaborating with other case study and problem based learning projects to dissemination information and resources for faculty interesting in incorporating these active learning strategies (www.sciencecasenet.org). In 2012, the Case It web site, www.caseitproject.org, has been updated to include more interactive features and facilitate more effective dissemination of materials, and will continue to be updated.

Acknowledgements: The National Science Foundation has provided funding to support development, dissemination, and assessment of Case It materials (DUE grants 9455425, 9752268, 0229156, 0717577). Mary Lundeberg, formerly at Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, has coordinated assessment of the project, with assistance from undergraduate and graduate students; in particular, Bjorn Wolter, former MSU graduate student. Chi-Cheng Lin assisted with critical aspects of the software that allowed incorporation of bioinformatics features. Rafael Tosado, Interamerican University of Puerto Rico-Metro Campus, Arlin Toro, Interamerican University of Puerto Rico-San German, and C. Dinitra White, North Carolina A & T State Unviversity, assisted in case development and assessment in their courses. Kim Mogen, Brad Mogen, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, and Eric Ribbens, Western Illinois University, have written case scenarios. Numerous faculty and student users have provided feedback on software features and ideas for new cases. The University of Wisconsin-River Falls College of Arts & Sciences and Provost’s office have provided support for faculty time and travel to conferences.

Enabling Student Success: A Learner-Centered Methodology

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Title of Abstract: Enabling Student Success: A Learner-Centered Methodology

Name of Author: Stephen Aley
Author Company or Institution: University of Texas at El Paso
Author Title: Professor
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: and Pre-Calculus, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Chemistry, Ecology and Environmental Biology, Evolutionary Biology, General Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, Organismal Biology, Physics, Virology
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum
Approaches: Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development
Keywords: Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) Curricular Research Interdisciplinary Quantitative Biology Assessment

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): James E. Becvar, University of Texas at El Paso Ann H. Darnell, University of Texas at El Paso

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The Biology undergraduate curriculum at the University of Texas at El Paso is undergoing vast changes that address both the University Mission (a pursuit for excellence in education while providing access to the people of El Paso) and a response to the state of Texas legislature’s call for a larger percentage of students graduating. UTEP Biology undergraduate students are 85% Hispanic, mirroring the population of El Paso and reflecting national trends. The intended outcome is to graduate more students and increase participation of underrepresented students in biomedical research.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: The change strategy focuses on a learner-centered methodology. Beginning in 2000, the curriculum format for general chemistry changed by replacing one faculty-delivered lecture (passive learning) per week with a required weekly two-hour workshop (active learning). The workshop includes one hour of problem solving in teams guided by a Peer Leader, followed by one hour of hands-on explorations. The explorations are simple experimental activities which promote student-initiated inquiry, guided by the Peer Leaders. Many activities are based on biology, demonstrating real-world examples of the conceptual material that students encounter in lecture. Building upon this active learning approach, a 2006-awarded HHMI grant implemented undergraduate research for at least one semester, and potentially two, for all biology majors. In 2007, an NSF-funded STEP grant expanded the chemistry peer-led workshop model to mathematics and physics. In 2008, NIH provided funding for a major curricular reform where the Core Competencies (Vision & Change, 2011) of quantitative reasoning, modeling and simulation were implemented, beginning with the first introductory biology course, concluding with new course development that consolidates courses designed to prepare students for various graduate studies including Bioinformatics and Biomedical Engineering. Eleven additional undergraduate biology courses (three of which were associated laboratory courses) were either revamped or developed (NIH MARC II) with the goal of increasing the emphasis on biological modeling, computational knowledge, statistical analysis, and data analysis. This curricular reformation targeted not only the increased understanding of core concepts including the ability to make connections among interdisciplinary problems, but an increase in perception of relevance of mathematics and computer modeling in the systems approaches required today.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: 1) Successful course completion 2) Tracking students to graduation 3) Matriculation to graduate and professional school 4) Attitudinal surveys Results of these curricular modifications show that over a six year period between the fall of 2006 and the fall of 2012, the number of biological science students has nearly tripled at UTEP, with the percentage of underrepresented students, primarily Hispanic, rising 10% (to over 85%). Part of this growth is due to less attrition. Assessing degree output six years prior, the graduation rate has risen for those students who declare a major in a biology discipline (from 78% to 85%) over a six year timeframe. If we only maintain an 85% graduation rate, by 2018 we should see more than 1200 students, 85% which are Hispanic, entering the workforce or continuing at the graduate level prepared to critically address not only biology-related problems but complex interdisciplinary issues and challenges of the 21st century.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: The positive outcomes of the program not only include improved student success in course, but also the enhancement of professional development gained through self-guided and team-guided inquiry, presentation, and leadership opportunities. Leaders gain significant confidence in public speaking and motivational skills. Due to our unique program implementation, undergraduates have a great opportunity to significantly enhance the program. This is because they use their own creativity and are permitted to incorporate their suggestions. The expanded knowledge and experiences gained in peer-led workshops, undergraduate research, and interdisciplinary team-based learning activities are crucial to students planning careers in the research, medical, biotechnology, or academic fields. The modified biology curriculum creates stronger thinkers and self-learners. The institutional structure was impacted with the addition of student-only research laboratories where students learn by doing. *All biology students have an undergraduate research experience built into the courses *Increased statistics knowledge *Increased graduation *Increased matriculation into graduate and professional school *Team building *Leadership skills *Communication skills

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Maintaining curricular changes

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: Presentations at multiple meetings Writing one or more journal articles

Acknowledgements: NIH, NSF, HHMI

Using Evo-Devo to Implement Change in Upper-Level Courses.

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Title of Abstract: Using Evo-Devo to Implement Change in Upper-Level Courses.

Name of Author: Anna Hiatt
Author Company or Institution: University of Kansas
Author Title: Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Integrative Biology, Organismal Biology
Course Levels: Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Assessment, Material Development
Keywords: evo-devo, evolutionary biology, developmental biology, inquiry-based teaching and learning, concept inventories

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Donald P. French, Oklahoma State University

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Using a discipline-based approach, we developed an inquiry-based activity targeting evo-devo concepts for two upper-level undergraduate biology courses in Evolution and Embryology. The activities include tapping into the interdisciplinary nature of science, active use of quantitative reasoning and computational biology to solve problems, and implementing classroom and laboratory assessments. Our goal is to document change in student understanding of evo-devo concepts throughout the course of the semester in the two courses. Additional goals include recruitment of faculty to adopt similar practices and activities in their courses.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: The evo-devo teaching unit draws on examples from authentic research using Stickleback fishes as a case to evaluate both population and molecular level evolutionary changes within this system. Several major themes emerge in the unit that encourage the integration of evolution and development: Population genetics studies of traits to differentiate between drift and selection, developmental and genetic basis of morphological changes, conceptual understanding and modeling of gene switches and regulatory DNA, and understanding the relationship between molecular-level proximate mechanisms of evolution and their ultimate effect on populations. To assess the outcomes of these changes we evaluated students using student artifacts and a variety of diagnostic tools. The EvoDevoCI is a recently validated instrument developed by the authors that specifically measures student understanding of six core evo-devo concepts. Using the EvoDevo CI as a tool to measure learning gains over the course of the semester, we issued pre- and post-tests at the beginning and end of the semester in Embryology and before and after the evo-devo unit was taught in the Evolution course. We also used lecture exams and lab activities to evaluate student understanding of evo-devo and related concepts in both courses: these include the use of short-answer and essay questions as well as lab reports and oral presentations. These assessments were administered to ascertain whether incorporating approaches outlined in Vision and Change improved undergraduate biology majors’ understanding of and ability to apply evo-devo and related foundational concepts.

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 EvoDevoCI evaluates six core evo-devo concepts that will allow us to measure any change in student understanding of this interdisciplinary area. The activity requires students to apply evolutionary concepts to developmental contexts and discern between a variety of evolutionary mechanisms. In the process, we hope this also alleviates persistent evolutionary misconceptions. The EvoDevoCI was administered before any evo-devo instruction was provided at the beginning of the semester and was administered two weeks after the Stickleback teaching unit concluded. By evaluating learning gains in each of the core concepts we are able to document any change in student understanding. Additional qualitative data was obtained from open-response questions and activities collected during the instructional unit. This may provide additional data on how student conceptual understanding may have shifted during the teaching unit.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: This project directly impacts the two instructors who have had no previous training in scientific teaching. Their participation was voluntary and both intend to continue using this activity in future semesters. Both have also expressed interest in learning more about assessing their students and developing effective teaching units. One professor in particular has been highly motivated in using more effective assessments to capture student understanding of evolutionary concepts. This also provides a ‘domino-effect’ in that many other faculty have become more interested in how to assess their students properly. At OSU, the introductory biology course has been employing inquiry-based teaching and learning activities for over a decade and many faculty who are assigned to teach are able to invest in learning about these practices and taking them to their upper-level courses. However, little overall departmental changes are visible: The undergraduate assessment committee has adopted more appropriate assessment methods, but little has been done to promote or document changes across the degree program.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Many faculty are time-constrained in their ability to add or re-arrange a syllabus to accommodate a new instructional unit. To help create an incentive and alleviate this constraint, Dr. Hiatt delivered all of the instructional units to both courses as a guest-lecturer. The participating faculty attended these lectures and met periodically throughout the semester to discuss the project with the intent the instructor of record would implement and teach the lesson in subsequent semesters.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The results of this project will be published as an article documenting learning gains in upper-level biology courses. We also plan to present these findings at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference in November. The primary author, Dr. Hiatt, recently moved to a post-doctoral position at the University of Kansas and plans to continue to collect data using the EvoDevoCI in a variety of biology courses. At OSU, the Undergraduate Assessment Committee has made plans to expand its assessment strategies to include qualitative artifacts and student interviews.

Acknowledgements: Instructors Michi Tobler, Arpad Nyari, and Andy Dzialowski. And transcribers and research assistants Kat Moriarty and Heather Stigge.

A New Model for a University 2 + 2 STEM Degree Program

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Title of Abstract: A New Model for a University 2 + 2 STEM Degree Program

Name of Author: Jennifer Drew
Author Company or Institution: University of Florida
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Cell Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, Virology
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum
Approaches: Mixed Approach
Keywords: Genomics Distance Education transfer online education Microbiology

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Sebastian Galindo-Gonzalez, University of Florida Eric W. Triplett, Professor, University of Florida

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Our original efforts began with the development of a single undergraduate course, Bacterial Genome Sequencing & Analysis, in 2006, and without a doubt, the original vision of that course has prompted a cascade of changes and resulted in a cultural shift in our department to one of continual reassessment and improvement of our educational programs. Our vision has expanded far beyond this original course to the departmental level by revamping the entire curriculum, establishing a campus-wide minor program, and expanding the reach of these reforms with a distance degree program. Our overall objective is to demonstrate the success of a new model of increasing the number of STEM graduates and the diversity of graduates while upholding high degree standards and maintaining a cutting-edge curriculum.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: The University of Florida Microbiology & Cell Science Distance Education B.S. degree program officially began in Fall 2011 (https://microbiology.ifas.ufl.edu). This program is designed for Associate of Arts graduates to transfer into UF as distance students to complete the remaining two years towards their B.S. degree in MCS. The primary advantage and unique feature of this program is that the students will earn a 4-year degree from UF without relocating to Gainesville because the majority of the coursework is taught by distance. Often our best research universities, particularly public research 1 universities, are located in small college towns located over 100 miles from the major urban centers of their respective states. We believe that the physical and cultural distance between many public research 1 universities and the country's major urban centers is a leading impediment to the recruitment of outstanding low-income students of diverse backgrounds to the STEM disciplines. We hypothesize that by bringing the curriculum to qualified students through distance education, we can increase the number and diversity of microbiology graduates. We are forming partnerships with all 28 of Florida's community colleges to expand this program, but the first and most significant partnership is with Miami Dade College (MDC), the largest minority-serving institution in the US with over 170,000 students. Miami Dade College and UF signed an articulation agreement in 2011. We work with administration, faculty, and students to design elements of the degree program that specifically address the needs of the underrepresented population of MDC.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Outcomes will be determined by evaluating endpoints of total number of majors, total graduates, time to graduate as well as data from long-term tracking of graduates. Program quality, enrollment numbers, as well as retention and recruitment strategies are being thoroughly assessed by an experienced evaluator.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: To date, 47 students have enrolled in the online program, and four have graduated. The online program is increasing the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM. Currently, 26% of enrolled students are Hispanic, which is an increase over the baseline proportion of Hispanic students at the University of Florida (18%). The long-term success of this program will be watched carefully by the institution. Many other departments are interested in adopting this model of degree delivery if this program proves a successful and sustainable endeavor.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: We have recognized some barriers to success and have developed strategies to overcome those barriers such as improving administrative services (admissions, financial aid) and steadily encouraging faculty buy-in for online teaching formats. Enrollment numbers are increasing steadily, and beginning in March 2012, a marketing firm with expertise in online degree programs began to promote the program to help with recruitment. Numbers are now increasing at a faster pace, and interested students from Florida and across the nation inquire about the program daily.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: Since 2008, aspects of these curriculum efforts have been published in peer reviewed journal articles and presented in local and national conferences such as the American Society of Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators and the NSF TUES Conference in 2013. Currently, a manuscript is in preparation describing the creating of a new model of a 2 + 2 program in STEM. Future plans include additional publications and meeting participation.

Acknowledgements: The authors would like to acknowledge three awards from the National Science Foundation from the Division of Undergraduate Education: Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Instruction (CCLI) Phase 1 (DUE 0737027), CCLI Phase 2 (DUE-0920151), and STEM Talent Expansion Project (STEP) grant (DUE-1161177).

An Entry-Level Research Lab at a PUI and a Community College

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Title of Abstract: An Entry-Level Research Lab at a PUI and a Community College

Name of Author: Lisa Hines
Author Company or Institution: UCCS
Author Title: Asst Prof
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, General Biology, Genetics
Course Levels: Faculty Development, Introductory Course(s)
Approaches: Mixed Approach
Keywords: research experience; introductory-level; community college; public primarily undergraduate institution; evaluation/assessment

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Thomas D. Wolkow, University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The Vision and Change report recommends integrating research-based experiences into the undergraduate curriculum. While there is much enthusiasm and a growing number of examples of this type of transformation, there are relatively few examples in large, entry-level biology courses, and insufficient research on the overall efficacy. Can the research-based approach work with entry-level courses at public, primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs) and community colleges (CCs) that typically serve a more diverse student population and lack a strong research infrastructure? Using a randomized, controlled study design, we evaluated whether integrating a yeast genetics research experience into an otherwise traditional introductory laboratory course would increase knowledge and perception of learning and enjoyment at a public PUI and a CC. Both the PUI and CC students demonstrated significant improvements in knowledge. However, only the PUI students enjoyed the experience while the CC students overwhelming preferred the traditional labs. In an attempt to improve enjoyment at the CC, we identified factors that were potentially problematic and made modifications accordingly. Upon reevaluation at the CC, the research-based sections rated enjoyment either equivalent to or higher than the traditional labs.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: We designed a 7-week research module that allows students to create fission yeast DNA damage response (DDR) mutants and characterize them in terms of sensor/transducer or effector mutations using microscopy and bioinformatics. Lab 1 is a preparatory lab that allows students to learn about genome integrity and connect it to the carcinogenic effects of ultraviolet light. In addition, it introduces students to some basic techniques and equipment that are fundamental to biological research, such as pipetting, dilutions and microscopy. During Labs 2 thru 4, students randomly mutate the S. pombe haploid genome with UV-radiation and use replica plating to screen for mutations in genes of the DNA damage response (DDR). Finally, students use bioinformatics and both brightfield and fluorescence microscopy to place their mutants in the sensor/transducer or downstream effector parts of the DDR signal transduction pathway. Throughout the module, students develop scientific literacy skills by collecting, graphing and evaluating data. After each lab session, students are given an assignment that allows them to apply the concepts and techniques that they learned in a different context. This module incorporates four of the five V&C literacy concepts. Utilizing a randomized controlled trial study design, we evaluated the module in equivalent introductory-level general biology course at a PUI and a CC. The PUI has a highly diverse student population that comprises 20% minorities, 20% military affiliates, 37% first generation, and 63% financial aid recipients. Approximately 200 students enroll in the PUI introductory biology laboratory course per semester, of which 35% are non-majors. The student demographics at CC are even more diverse, and the introductory biology course has a substantially larger representation of non-majors and a low course retention rate.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: To minimize the influence of extraneous variables, we employed a randomized controlled trial study design where sections were randomly assigned to either the research-based or traditional format. At the PUI, this included 3 research-based (n=40 students) and 3 traditional sections (n=48 students) with three instructors teaching one of each format. A similar study design was employed at the CC. Based on demographics and performance on knowledge pre-assessments between the research-based and traditional sections, randomization was effective at the PUI and CC. Two assessment strategies were used to measure knowledge gains and perceived learning and enjoyment. The knowledge assessment included two pre-post tests: 1) the Introductory Molecular & Cell Biology Assessment (IMCA) and 2) a 10-question multiple-choice assessment of basic concepts addressed in the module. In addition, a Likert scale survey was administered at the end of the semester to measure student perception of each weekly lab activity with respect to learning and enjoyment, as well as other aspects of the laboratory course. Pre-post test comparisons demonstrated that both PUI and CC students who participated in the research-based sections had higher learning gains when compared with students in the traditional sections, yet there were notable differences in perceived learning and enjoyment. While the PUI students in the research-based sections perceived greater learning and enjoyment, the CC students in the traditional labs overwhelmingly perceived greater learning and enjoyment when compared to those in the research-based sections. After identifying factors that were potentially problematic, we made adjustments accordingly and the course was reevaluated at the CC. With these modifications, we observed increases in learning and perception among CC students. Overall, the research-based sections rated enjoyment either equivalent to or higher than the traditional labs.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: We have demonstrated that it is feasible and efficacious to implement a research-based experience at a public PUI and a CC that serve diverse student populations and have limited research infrastructure. We have also identified unique challenges and ways to overcome them that will be informative to other PUI and CC educators and administrators who are interested in this type of curricular transformation.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Lack of research infrastructure and the need for instructor and laboratory support staff training were the most significant, albeit expected, challenges faced at both institutions. NSF funding and institutional support proved critical in overcoming both. Unexpected challenges arose from institutional differences in job obligations and promotion structure. In other words, there are better incentives for faculty to implement educational innovations at the PUI. Without NSF-TUES Type 1 funding to provide stipends, it would have been challenging for CC faculty to commit to this type of endeavor. Additional challenges also arose from differences between the PUI and CC course and institutional logistics. For example, the CC laboratory courses are much shorter, their equipment is shared among multiple courses and campuses, and the CC has different institutional policies. Classroom adjustments, adaptions to acquire the appropriate resources, and modifications to the module allowed us to overcome many of these logistical challenges. We suggest that the transferability of a research experience can be measured in terms of funding, institutional policy and logistics, and adaptability of the research experience.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: We have participated in various activities to promote project dissemination. First, we generated several resources that have improved the quality of the module and will facilitate transferability and dissemination to other institutions. These include: complete student and instructor laboratory manuals, preparations manual and worksheet, powerpoint slides for instructors, students worksheets with answer keys, and videos demonstrating laboratory techniques. Second, we recently made arrangements with a publishing company in order to enable large-scale production and distribution of the laboratory manual. We will continue to make improvements to the laboratory manual based on student, faculty and staff feedback. Third, we have drafted a manuscript based on this research that we plan to submit to a peer-reviewed journal. Lastly, we will continue to present our project and research at science education-related conferences and other forums.

Acknowledgements: Lisa Durrenberger (UCCS) Robert Henderson (PPCC) Lisa Hollis-Brown (PPCC) Melissa Lema (PPCC) Michael Maynard (UCCS) Anne Montgomery (PPCC) David Oswandel (PPCC) Stephanie Pauley (PPCC) Jennifer Swartz (PPCC) Brent Wallace (UCCS)

Learning to Learn

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Title of Abstract: Learning to Learn

Name of Author: John Moore
Author Company or Institution: Taylor University
Author Title: Professor of Biology& NABT Past President
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Cell Biology, Genetics, Plant Biology & Botany
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum
Approaches: Adding to the literature on how people learn, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development, Mixed Approach
Keywords: Cell, Plant, Genetics Flipped Metacognition

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Jeffrey Regier, Taylor University

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The Department of Biology has selected three introductory courses for implementation of the recommendations from the Vision & Change report. Principles of Cell Biology & Introductory Plant Biology classes, and Principles of Genetics were selected because of the eagerness of the faculty to participate and the foundation that these courses have in the students’ future success at the university. The department has set for our main goals to provide the student with a learning environment that truly mimics the reality of the nature of science in biology. The establishment of a student-focused learning environment accomplishes the goal. Both the traditional classroom and course laboratory are designed to focus on (1) the thinking/analytical processes in both learning and biology, on (2) the skills and cognitive tools required in the science, and (3) the foundational knowledge that is used to address the biological concepts, methodologies and research of the science of biology.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: First, students are introduced to learning in biology. Learning that is research based, or more specifically how research supports the understanding of learning in science. This introduction lays a foundation on both metacognitive knowledge and the metacognitive tools that assist them in the process of learning science. Secondly, two major design changes have occurred that help move the program to a student-learning model. The first design change occurs in the ‘classroom setting’ where students are placed in flipped class formats. Students are exposed to the need to read and identify what is being addressed in class prior to the class meeting. The second design change occurs in the laboratory. Lab activities are now project oriented focused on collaboration, information processing, analysis and reflection, and question development. Thirdly, students will be expected to identify, understand, critique and propose research questions to both currently understood ideas in biology and ideas that are much less understood.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Documentation of those outcomes will come in the form of collaborative presentations; analytical questions with research based answers, and validation of understanding by organizing the learning. The outcomes of the learning are assessed in forms of communicating, elaborating, extending, exemplify or inferring and making of predictions. Additionally the development of models or metaphors may also utilize as well as standard testing and questioning.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Taylor University is in complete support of the changes we are requesting. The faculty in all the science has been influenced highly by our institutions Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE). The university has focused our approach in teaching and learning based on its mission that is preparation of students. This focus and approach has included the construction of our new science building. The building was designed to be one that is student learning directed. Providing interactive and collegial space that moves the teaching and interacting of students to a collaborative process where both formal and informal interfaces where students have the opportunity to live their learning of biological science and to explore biology in a non-traditional ‘cookbook’ format.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Resistant faculty to move away from a traditional approach of if it is covered it is taught and if it is taught then it is learned.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: Bring assessed data to the provost and dean of the center for teaching and learning excellence for analysis. Provide modules for other faculty to observe and participate

Acknowledgements: Dr. Jeffrey Moshier Provost of Taylor University Dr. William Toll Dean of the School of Natural and Applied Sciences

Integrating Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum

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Title of Abstract: Integrating Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum

Name of Author: Sarah Ades
Author Company or Institution: Penn State University
Author Title: Associate Professor
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, General Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, Virology
Course Levels: Introductory Course(s), Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development
Keywords: inquiry-based student-centered research laboratory course seminar

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: There is a fundamental disconnect between the traditional approach to science education and the way science functions as a discipline. Science education has focused on lecture courses emphasizing facts, and laboratory courses in which students practice techniques. The scientific method of asking interesting questions, formulating hypotheses, designing experiments, and analyzing data, is difficult to convey in this format. Because science pervades nearly every aspect of modern society, it is imperative that we educate students in the theory and techniques of science and in the practice of primary research and its applications. To this end, we developed a two course progression to couple classroom learning with primary research and to integrate students into the research community starting in their freshman year. The first course is an introductory laboratory course that uses open-ended inquiry-based labs and student-centered active learning techniques that focus on the Core Concepts for Biological Literacy and the Scientific Method. The second course combines independent research in faculty laboratories with a student-driven seminar. The overall framework of these courses is expandable and readily adaptable to other areas of science. The overarching goal of these courses is to give the students a strong foundation in scientific inquiry to guide them in their education at the university and to provide them with the skills to become life-long educated consumers of science. Throughout the courses, units are chosen that relate life sciences to the students’ lives, address core concepts, and stimulate curiosity about the biological world.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: Introductory Lab Course: The primary goal of this course is to initiate students in the practice of science. It is taken by students in their second semester and is their first biological laboratory course. The emphasis is on understanding science as a discipline, while learning concepts of microbiology, lab safety, notebook skills, and experimental techniques. The course is divided into modules focusing on core concepts, such as evolution, information exchange, and microbial systems. Successive modules increase in complexity and build on concepts learned earlier in the course. For each module, peer groups of students discuss the topic and define a question of interest answerable through experimentation with guidance from the instructors. Peer groups develop hypotheses, design the experiments, and analyze their results. At the end of a module, students present their work in written or oral format. The presentations teach communication skills, allow students to learn from others, and enable the type of critical discussion of data and conclusions common in scientific communities. Communities of Practice: Sections of this course are organized around research questions that are shared among laboratories of several faculty members, such as antibiotic development or cellular differentiation. Students perform primary research in one of the laboratories and meet weekly in a seminar to investigate and discuss critical issues surrounding the research and the broader impacts of science on society. Students direct the seminar and choose topics for investigation as a group. An explicit goal of this format is to educate students on how to identify interesting and important scientific questions. Students learn how to gather information outside a classroom and how to synthesize and present material to their peers. Students participate in the course on an ongoing basis culminating with the senior thesis. In this manner, students develop a peer group in the section and laboratory.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: A formal assessment plan to evaluate the outcomes of this two course sequence is currently being developed in conjunction with education experts at the Schreyer Center for Teaching and Learning at Penn State. Assessments will address retention of skills taught in the introductory lab course, understanding of the scientific method, and effects of involvement in these courses on student achievement and retention in the major. The laboratory course was first offered in 2013. Student ratings of teaching effectiveness for both semesters were very high and many students noted that the inquiry-based format enhanced their learning experience. The Communities of Practice course has been taught since 2009. Students who participated in the class have commented on how much the class helped in being prepared for graduate and medical schools.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Although we have not yet assessed the courses with a formal research study, we have noted positive impacts of the courses. The inquiry-based introductory lab course is now recommended for all students entering the three majors hosted by our department. The Communities of Practice course is designed in a modular format that facilitates expansion. A course guide was developed so that sections of the course can be easily established by faculty groups who share research goals, whether in the same department or from different academic units.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Among the major challenges has been in finding the time to develop new courses and to gain a better understanding of teaching methods. Sabbatical time was instrumental. In addition, resources such as a course development workshop through the Schreyer Center for Teaching and Learning, seminars on teaching methods sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Science Education (CESE) of the Eberly College of Science at Penn State, and participation in international conferences on science education (ASMCUE) were critical for obtaining the background about teaching methods and theory to better design the courses. Fellowship support from the CESE also provided necessary resources to implement the course.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The activities have been presented as a seminar for the CESE that was open to all faculty on campus. A course guide to the Communities of Practice course will be available for faculty interested in starting sections of the course. Plans are to write a description of the courses for the PULSE toolkit. Once more formal assessment has been done, the work will be presented at conferences and via publications.

Acknowledgements: These courses were developed and implemented in collaboration with Dr. Kenneth Keiler in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department at Penn State. This work was supported in part by a Tombros fellowship from the Center for Excellence in Science Education of the Eberly College of Science at Penn State.