PROMOTING THE ACTIVE PARTICIPATION OF STUDENTS IN KNOWLEDGE CONSTRUCTION: AN EARLY START IN BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH
The presentation, either oral or in the form of poster at congresses, conferences, and scientific meetings, represents one of the primary means of communication within the scientific community and between the latter and agents outside the scientific community. Therefore, attendance and participation in scientific congresses is an essential part of scientific life. In these meetings, oral communication plays an essential and determining role and few students and young scientists face this situation with confidence and find it easy to speak to a large audience that, in most cases, have a wide expertise. However, practice, training, and constructive criticism can turn the most timid speaker into a brilliant speaker. According to the white papers of the degrees related to Biomedicine approved by the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation of Spain (ANECA), transversal competencies should be approached. Among the best valued by students are capacity of organization and planning, teamwork, problem solving, analysis and synthesis skills, and oral and written communication, with emphasis in information gathering, designing experiments and interpreting results. These competencies are addressed in the biomedical degrees with laboratory classes, which are usually based on already defined experiments, carried out previously and whose results are expected, serving as a teaching tool to strengthen the knowledge acquired in the theory classes. Thus, for reasons of time, room, management, etc., it is very difficult for undergraduate students to gather original data of an investigation and even more complicated to send them to a congress or publish them in scientific journals. For this reason, the learning process normally ends with the preparation of laboratory notes, in which the students will confirm the expected results. Although the usefulness of these practices is undoubted, since they are based on the obtaining, identification, analysis, characterization or manipulation of biological samples or in the conduction of bioassays, one should try to go a step further, encouraging the participation of students in Biomedical research as real protagonists, since once the previous processes are finished, the scientific community announces its results in specialized congresses and publications of national and international scope. The aim of this innovative teaching experience was to incorporate undergraduate students into research in Biomedicine in order to make them protagonists of the construction of knowledge in this field. The students were introduced to the work carried out in the biomedical research laboratories. They were assigned a small project that they had to develop with the help and advice of professors. The experience culminated with the participation of the students in a prestigious congress where they presented the obtained results. The experience also emphasized the cooperative and collaborative aspects of teamwork, addressing transversal, instrumental, personal and systemic skills.