Scientific Inquiry and Process: A Design for the Times.
High impact practices, such as research experiences for undergraduates, have been shown to increase participation, retention, and success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and to be particularly effective for underprepared and underrepresented groups in STEM (Kuh, 2009). However, major barriers remain to widespread adoption of effective pedagogies, such as having cost-effective approaches, strategies for implementation on a broader scale, and tools for assessment of implementation. At the same time, there is a nationwide call to improve science education, particularly in scientific inquiry and process. How can science educators utilize what we know about how students learn and the most effective means of promoting learning, given the financial constraints of our times?
The overall goal of the NSF TUES project was to design and test interdisciplinary learning materials (i.e. a customizable laboratory manual) that incorporated writing, critiquing, Design Your Own Experiment (DYOE) pedagogy, and modern research techniques into inquiry-based laboratory learning modules that would provide undergraduates at a variety of institutions opportunities to design, conduct, analyze, and present outcomes of experiments, with consideration of budget and resource limitations.
We utilized a low-cost, easily adapted, and assessable DYOE approach (a variant of course-based undergraduate research experiences or CUREs) to embed research experiences into the laboratory components of two courses, Cell Biology and Developmental Biology.
Quantitative and qualitative measures were used to assess student learning gains in critical thinking (Critical Thinking Assessment Test, CAT) and mastery of a variety of science process outcomes (Classroom Undergraduate Research Experience, CURE survey), as a result of the intervention. CAT data analysis showed that students improved critical thinking skills (comparing pre- to post-test scores). From the CURE survey, perceived learning gains of ULV students matched or exceeded gains reported by students from other institutions engaged in classroom or summer research experiences. For both assessments, CAT and CURE, gains were statistically significant.
The NSF TUES project also led to the development of an electronic lab manual which outlines the approach, serves as a student lab manual, and provides students and instructors rubrics for key assignments. A complete first draft of the manual is currently under revision and a manuscript describing the project and results is in preparation.
The University of La Verne is a Hispanic-serving institution with an enrollment of greater than 50% students of color, greater than 80% receiving financial aid, approximately 40% first generation college attendees, and a recognized exemplar in the success of Latino/as in STEM fields (Dowd, 2009 NSF CUE Report), the University of La Verne reaches populations of students who have traditionally been underrepresented in STEM fields and serves as a role-model for other institutions serving similarly diverse enrollments. Data collected from the project suggest that students who are women, underrepresented minorities, first-generation, and/or from low-income families benefit from the DYOE/CURE approach we developed.
As we began to develop the laboratory manual in iBook Author, we ran into many developer errors. The software does not allow you to make edits mid-project. Therefore, if a step was forgotten or the protocol was adjusted for learning purposes, the entire section had to be re-done. This posed a problem for us as developers and will pose problems for future editions of the lab manual. Not only is it time consuming, but it poses a great inconvenience. The alternative software for developing an electronic manual, Captivate, is more developer friendly.
None to report at this time.