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Abstract Detail

Vision & Change in Undergraduate Botany Education

Brownell, Sara [1].

Integrating teaching and research in undergraduate biology lab courses.

National reports such as Vision and Change have called for incorporating authentic research into the undergraduate curriculum.  One way to do this is to replace traditional ‘cookbook’ lab courses with research-based lab courses that are more representative of authentic research.   
At Stanford University, we have developed a research-based introductory biology lab course where students worked on an authentic research problem of identifying the functional defect of mutant versions of p53, the tumor suppressor gene that is mutated in 50% of all human cancers. We required this course of all introductory students because we wanted all students that graduate with a biology degree to be able to experience the joys and challenges of authentic research.  Not only can this curriculum be offered to large enrollment classes, but this course functions better as a high enrollment course because we use large numbers of students to our advantage as a basis for high levels of collaboration and analysis of multiple sets of data.  
Using pre- and post-course open-ended questions, we found that students showed a shift in their perception of the purpose of the lab course from “learning techniques” at the beginning of the course to “learning how to think like a scientist” at the end of the course.  We also found that students had a more sophisticated understanding of what it meant to think like a scientist at the end of the course.  Students’ abilities to think like scientists improved after taking the course, specifically their abilities to analyze data, and students had a greater interest in pursuing future research after taking the course.   Collectively, these results indicate that this course can lead to gains in student “thinking like a scientist” skills in the context of an authentic research project.    
Through our efforts developing and teaching this course, we present the following recommendations to those interested in developing these types of courses: (1) Design a central research question that is common for all students, (2) Create variation in elements of the research project to create student ownership of project, (3) Implement a high level of collaboration between groups of students (4) Build a community of collaborators rather than competitors, (5) Use course assessments that are authentic (e.g. poster presentation, lab meeting presentation), and (6) Hire instructors who think like scientists and have a high level of scientific expertise.

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1 - Arizona State University, School of Life Sciences, 1028 S. Ash Ave #7, Tempe, AZ, 85182, USA

lab course
science education
Vision & Change.

Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: SY06
Location: Snake/Boise Centre
Date: Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Time: 3:45 PM
Number: SY06005
Abstract ID:253
Candidate for Awards:None

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