INTEGRATING TEACHING, LEARNING AND RESEARCH IN AN UNDERGRADUATE BIOLOGY MINOR
Wentworth Institute of Technology (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Undergraduate research allows faculty mentors to collaborate with students in order to make an original or creative contribution to a particular discipline. Traditional undergraduate research is often driven by a research question related to the mentor’s research program or developed by the student. Students perform a background search on the subject, develop a hypothesis, collect experimental data, and then submit a manuscript for publication or an abstract describing a completed project. Advancing cognitive and intellectual growth of the students and increasing job satisfaction and professional development of the faculty mentors are some of the benefits of undergraduate research.
Implementation of traditional undergraduate research programs at primarily teaching colleges presents several challenges. These include the requirement to carry a full teaching load that limits the time devoted to research for students’ mentors, the lack of funds allocated to research, the limited grant writing assistance, and the deficient laboratory technical assistance and facilities. In addition to these challenges, undergraduate research is difficult to assess or to integrate within an established curriculum.
In this report we describe the development of a modular, learning objective-driven research course in biotechnology as part of an undergraduate biology minor. The research course described in this pilot study is currently being evaluated by the instructor using descriptive rubrics and take-home exams. Its assessment also takes into consideration the students’ perspective using institutional course evaluations, on-going group discussions, and surveys of course learning gains. Based on our preliminary results, this type of undergraduate research experience has several advantages over traditional undergraduate research. One of these advantages is the higher emphasis on the learning and skill development involved in the research process, as opposed to traditionally emphasizing the success of the experiment, or its data collection and dissemination. Another advantage is the lower requirement of funds and time to implement than a traditional undergraduate research experience.
Based on students’ feedback, this course allows students to appreciate all the different aspects of the biotechnology research process including troubleshooting when experiments do not work as expected, gaining practice in the use of lab instrumentation not used in regular courses, designing of experiments by using cheaper and faster methods, critically evaluating specialized scientific literature and obtaining and disseminating original results worth of publication. The students also learn how to communicate or summarize their own thought processes, procedures and results with clarity by breaking down the information and presenting it with a simpler language.
The results of this pilot study suggest that the careful implementation of undergraduate research courses driven by the assessment of learning objectives and based on a faculty research program may be a good method to integrate biotechnology research into the curriculum of primarily teaching institutions.