Use of video production to promote collaborative learning and higher level cognitive understanding in an introductory life science curriculum

Project No.
1140951
PI Name
Paul Barber
Institution
University of California Los Angeles, UCLA


IUSE-EHR/TUES/CCLI

Abstract 1

Use of video production to promote collaborative learning and higher level cognitive understanding in an introductory life science curriculum

Presentation Type
Paper
Team
Paul Barber (UCLA) Jeannie Barber-Choi (UCLA) Marc Levis-Fitzgerald (UCLA) Deb Pires (UCLA)


Need

Life science education is dominated by large enrollment, instructor-centric lecture courses that are based on passive learning and focus on lower cognitive level factual recall. As a result, entering science students frequently become disengaged, resulting in national STEM retention and 6-year graduation rates that are less than 40%. For under-represented minorities (URM) retention rates are even lower. URM are often first-generation college students who face, among other challenges, an academic culture that can be unwelcoming, with few if any faculty role models. Lowered URM STEM retention not only impacts the diversity of our STEM workforce, but also threatens the future competitiveness of U.S. STEM industries.

Goals

To improve student learning and STEM retention, this project develops a novel life science curriculum focused on the use of video production as a pedagogical tool to promote active student learning in a collaborative framework. Students work in small collaborative groups to produce short documentary videos about research faculty on campus, which involves research, information synthesis, collaboration. Video topics span a diversity of life science fields, and all videos are required to integrate themes of evolution. The ultimate goal is to have the film making process actively engage students in science learning. In addition, the faculty interview process is designed to expose students to research from the outset of their undergraduate studies, inspiring them to consider undergraduate research and continue as STEM majors. Because URM students are the most vulnerable population for undergraduate STEM retention, we focus our program on this demographic.

Approach

Over 10-weeks, students learn the basics of documentary film production. They work in groups of three to research, learn to interview, edit, and develop stories about UCLA faculty and the science they do. Not only do students collaborate and interact with each other, they also interact with UCLA research faculty, and graduate students from UCLA's Department of Theater, Film, & Television. These interactions help students to form connectionsヨ connecting the dots to understand abstract concepts, to find a deeper relevance for science, and to create a social network for first-year science students.

Outcomes

Over three years, this project has shown substantial impact. Program assessment shows that students develop valuable communication skills, both with peers and faculty. The interview process eliminated students� pre-conceived notions of university faculty, making them seem more accessible and less intimidating. Through the process of video production and the screening of peer videos, the depth and scope of students� understanding of evolution also increased. Perhaps most importantly, results show that student commitment to life science majors was maintained or increased as a result of this course, as was their desire to pursue graduate studies. Students in our first cohort have a 81.5% STEM persistence rate, substantially higher than the 39% background rate of UCLA URM STEM majors; we are following subsequent cohorts to determine whether they have similar persistence rates.
This project has created a novel pedagogical model that can be run with little or no capital investment. We will work to facilitate its spread to other academic institutions.

Broader Impacts

Over three years, this project has shown substantial impact to keep incoming freshmen intending to major in the life sciences engaged. Program assessment shows that students develop valuable communication skills, both with peers and faculty. The interview process eliminated studentsメ pre-conceived notions of university faculty, making them seem more accessible and less intimidating. Through the process of video production and the screening of peer videos, the depth and scope of studentsメ understanding of evolution also increased. Perhaps most importantly, results show that student commitment to life science majors was maintained or increased as a result of this course, as was their desire to pursue graduate studies. Students in our first cohort have a 81.5% STEM persistence rate, substantially higher than the 39% background rate of UCLA URM STEM majors; we are following subsequent cohorts to determine whether they have similar persistence rates. We have created a website with selected videos from the course https://cs.eeb.ucla.edu/ and hope to have these videos more widely disseminated on campus, as well as at local community colleges, high schools, and middle schools.

Unexpected Challenges

We didn't want this course to steal precious time from the required freshman science courses, so we initially planned on a 1-unit course that spanned 3 consecutive quarters. In the first year, we found that it was difficult to keep collaborative groups intact over multiple quarters, so we re-designed the course as a 2-unit 1-quarter course that worked well.

In addition, although we were successful in recruiting large numbers of URM students for the course, we suffered >50% attrition of registered students during orientation when students met with counsellors. By informing college counsellors of the nature and goal of the course, attrition dropped to 10%.

Citations

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