Classroom Research Experience for Community College Students

Return to search results | New search

Title of Abstract: Classroom Research Experience for Community College Students

Name of Author: Gita Bangera
Author Company or Institution: Bellevue College
Author Title: Assistant Dean
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: 1483, Agricultural Sciences, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, Cell Biology, Ecology and Environmental Biology, General Biology, Genetics, Plant Biology & Botany, Virology
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum, Faculty Development, Introductory Course(s), Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development, Mixed Approach
Keywords: Undergraduate-Research Research-as-pedagogy Student-centered Genomics Bioinformatics

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): K. Harrington, Tacoma Community College A. Gargas, Symbiology LLC R. Jeffers, Bellevue College C. Vermilyea, Bellevue College L. Thomashow, USDA-ARS D. Weller, USDA-ARS

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 introducing research early and throughout the biology curriculum and demonstrating the passion of scientists for their fields. ComGen - Authentic Research Experiences Expansion project (NSF # 1225857) aims to take the field tested ComGen approach of using authentic research as pedagogy to community colleges (CCs) in the Pacific Northwest. The project is a continuation of a successful strategy of providing CC students with authentic research experiences early in their academic careers. We had originally developed a “mini-graduate school” course with previous funding (NSF# 0717470) where students generate, analyze and communicate new genomic data and critically analyze original scientific literature; we then modified and adapted critical components of this course to fit into a standard Majors’ Cell and Molecular Biology introductory course and piloted it successfully (McCook A. 2011 333: 1572-1573. Wei CA & T Woodin. 2011. CBE - Life Sciences Education 10: 123-131.). Our current project focuses on the dissemination of this course within the Pacific Northwest region and on developing related curricula for other courses within the Life Sciences spectrum. Our student impact outcomes include improved critical thinking skills, increasing students’ knowledge of the process of science and confidence in visualizing themselves as scientists, and increased retention of students in STEM fields. Our overarching goal is to promote widespread adoption of a sustainable, student-focused and institutionalized culture of research pedagogy among regional CCs. To achieve this goal we want to: 1. Create transformative changes in STEM education by integrating easily adoptable authentic research experiences into community college curricula; 2. Build faculty and institutional capacity for providing authentic research experiences to community college students; and 3. Build a sustainable research network to help enrich and expand impact.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: We are training faculty from the region’s CCs in using the pedagogical and assessment tools developed from previous NSF funding with workshops customized to their individual needs. We are also developing new tools with input from the faculty participants; providing ongoing support for the faculty for implementation of the curriculum and providing venues for interaction between CC and research faculty for development of a Community of Practice. Our key goal is to develop faculty capacity to follow the “Hands on/Hands off” pedagogical approach: the experience is “hands on” for students and “hands off” for faculty i.e. faculty are encouraged to provide the minimum amount of scaffolding and allow students to take charge of the learning process.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: We have used nationally accepted instruments such as the CURE survey (Lopatto D, et al. 2008. Undergraduate research: Genomics education partnership. Science 322: 684-685.) and our own internally developed assessment tools to document the impact on students and other outcomes. These include an instrument for assessing students’ grasp of the technical details of the research and a survey of the faculty receiving students after their ComGen experience. We are continuing to develop and optimize our assessment instruments with input from the participating faculty.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: We are currently analyzing the data from our first year of the project but we have shown impact on students’ ability to: perform the technical components of the research, develop tolerance for obstacles in research and visualize themselves as scientists in our pilot work in the previous grant. We have found that even faculty with multiple decades of teaching experience have adopted this approach and found it to be empowering both for themselves and the students. Faculty who have incorporated this teaching method into their curricula insist that they have no interest in returning to the traditional modes of teaching and have started incorporating tools from this process into their other courses as well.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: So far we have not run into any unexpected challenges in this process. The challenges that we have faced are the usual issues of trying to coordinate the training time for faculty.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: We have so far trained faculty from seven institutions and of these four are already implementing the ComGen pedagogy model. We plan to expand our dissemination efforts to include at least 15 CCs in the Pacific Northwest. We have recruited faculty at the NorthWest Biology Instructors Organization meeting and by direct contact through the network of Department Chairs. As one of 40 Vision and Change Leadership fellows as part of the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education (PULSE), the Principal Investigator will also use the North West PULSE conference (NSF EAGER 1345033) to recruit more faculty not just from the CCs but other (especially minority serving institutions) as well.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to useful input from Jason Fuller, Allen Farrand, Stephen Clark, Pamela Pape-Lindstrom and Stacey Gregersen.