Effective Implementation of a Classroom Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE): Testing, Optimizing, and Extending a Bioinformatics Approach
The goal of the Genomics Education Partnership (GEP) is to provide undergraduates at all levels with a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) in genomics/ bioinformatics. The GEP unites a very diverse group of schools in terms of size, educational mission, and funding (public versus private), with over 100 schools currently affiliated. The staff at Washington University organizes joint curriculum development; knowledge and attitude assessments; and the research project in comparative genomics of Drosophila. GEP members are currently working on identifying the key elements of a successful CURE, and on expanding the curriculum to reach beginning undergraduate students.
GEP faculty members from different institutional settings all use the same project and core training materials. This commonality enables us to utilize the GEP as a research organization, to generate a better understanding of how research experiences impact student learning and self-identification as a scientist, and maximize our effectiveness.
GEP employs well-established assessment instruments for pre- and post-course surveys and quizzes in order to measure the efficacy of the collective educational effort. Data is analyzed at the end of every academic year. In spring 2015, we modified the assessment to include faculty logs and new items in the student surveys. The data were collected to test two hypotheses: 1) the more often students are reminded that they are doing original research, the more positive their reports will be concerning the benefits [as measured by the SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) survey]; 2) the more often a faculty member uses active pedagogical strategies, the better the student quiz scores will be.
Based on the results of the faculty log, we have identified two frequently used strategies to support student research involvement that GEP faculty have reported to be effective: ﾑexplaining to students that they are solving novel research problems,ﾒ and ﾑexplaining to students that the project will generate publishable results.ﾒ The most frequently used active learning approaches were: ﾑintroduce Genscan results as a hypothesis,ﾒ ﾑuse impromptu mini-lectures,ﾒ and ﾑencourage students to consult classmates and TAs.ﾒ We also field-tested some existing survey scales concerning student attitudes. The results showed that our surveys have strong inter-item reliability (Cronbachﾒs alpha > 0.70). A multiple linear regression model with post-course quiz scores predicted by 14 pedagogic approaches used yields a correlation (R) of 0.41 (p < 0.05). For full courses using GEP materials, R = 0.64; for shorter modules, R = 0.49. Using faculty estimates of the effectiveness of different strategies as predictors yields similar results.
Lessons learned from these assessments are being applied as we reach out to students at the beginning of their undergraduate careers, when most of the attrition from STEM occurs, to ascertain the impact a CURE strategy can have at that stage.
The analyses described above and subsequent studies should enable us to provide a bioinformatics-based CURE for large number of beginning students, helping to transform undergraduate STEM education.
The GEP unites a very diverse group of schools in terms of size, educational mission, and funding (public versus private), with over 100 schools currently affiliated. Challenges in maintaining faculty participation happen to be challenging.
Leung, W. et al. 2015, G3. 5(5):719-40. Drosophila Muller F Elements Maintain a Distinct Set of Genomic Properties Over 40 Million Years of Evolution
Lopatto, D. et al. 2014, CBE Life Sci Educ. 13(4):711-23. A central support system can facilitate implementation and sustainability of a Classroom-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) in Genomics
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