(go back to position 1)
Position 3: Plunger is completely depressed
(then go back to position 1)
Position 1: Pipette plunger is at rest.
Reflection: Overall, I believe the techniques that worked best were the use of an initial handout with diagrams on basic techniques and rules/guidelines for the lab. This allowed the student to know initial standards for the lab and have a “cheat sheet” for basic techniques that she may need a reference for. I also believe that by allowing her to observe, show, and then independently work gave her the opportunity to explore the science without feeling that she was left “alone” to figure out how things work. She seemed willing to become independent as long as she knew that I was available if needed.
To improve my mentoring, I also later enrolled in a Mentor Training Seminar through the Delta program. This seminar course brought together grad students who had either mentored in the past or had current mentees. We met and discussed challenges, benefits, and approaches to having a student. I was able to use my experiences to share with other and improve my own perspective of being a mentor. One of the topics we discussed focused on facing diversity in our mentees. When you meet your student there are many factors to consider including their interest level, future plans, background training, and basic math skills. One must also consider how responsible the student is and how independent they are. I think to address these matters it would be of best interest for both mentor and mentee to survey each other. Perhaps give a handout with scenarios asking 1-10 how comfortable would they feel (I.e.- How comfortable are you handling and operating a micropipette? On a scale of 1-10 how comfortable are you with calculating dilutions). This would provide a starting point for mentor and mentee and perhaps allow the mentee to become more comfortable in the lab. Although I tried to address this with my mentee, I know that I can be more thorough in my initial meetings to make sure we have a good understanding of each other. In addition, I would have more structured meetings with my mentee, as this would facilitate better progress between mentor and student and allow for perhaps more productive conversations. I may also present a small survey or checkpoint quiz to make sure they have a good grasp of what is occurring in the lab.
Artifact 2: Integrating active learning through case-studies into standard veterinary genetics lecture On the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus there is an upper level Veterinary Genetics lecture that is taught each Spring semester that consists of approximately 20-30 students. It’s during this course time that students learn about applied molecular genetic techniques in terms of human and animal conditions. My Ph.D. professor rotates teaching this course and during the Spring 2010 semester asked if I would be a teaching assistant. I had guest lectured the course the prior academic year but had not been involved beyond that. By becoming a teaching assistant I was actively involved in laboratory activities and grading. I also attended more lectures to stay informed about the material students were learning.
In addition, I was able to guest lecture again for the course. With the goal of improving on my lecture from the prior year, I decided to integrate some active learning techniques to help break-up the teaching session and involve students more. Tools that I utilized included PowerPoint slides with open questions (that I would ask the students to answer), Graphs/tables that I would stop and ask the student to explain, and a break-out session towards the end of the period where students formed groups and discussed questions related to case-studies I presented.
More specifically, I lectured on the genetics of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for my lecture. During this time period I presented information on genetic disorders and potential links to IVF, genetic diagnosis tools for IVF, and lastly the use of genetics to create “designer” babies. It was from this that I presented 2-3 case studies regarding differing reasons for using genetics with IVF. Students were then allowed to discuss in groups of 3-4 the potential sides for the argument made in the case study. Then, the whole class was brought back together to discuss opinions. If there was a quite moment where students weren’t responding, I had questions prepared which I asked to continue dialogue and conversion.
Case Study Example:
In a tragic bonfire accident in 1999, Alan and Louise Masterton lost their youngest child, three-year-old Nicole. Devastated by their loss, the Mastertons, who have four sons, argued that whilst they were not seeking to replace Nicole, they had been trying for a daughter for fifteen years. Louise Masterton had been sterilized after the birth of Nicole and needed IVF to have another child. The Mastertons wanted the HFEA to allow them to undergo IVF treatment and select a female embryo using embryo biopsy. They argued that their family had a strong psychological need for a daughter. However, the HFEA will only consider an issue if a clinic applies to them for a license. The Mastertons could not find a UK clinic that was prepared to take up the case on their behalf and so sought treatment in Italy instead. However, only one male embryo was produced, and this was donated to an infertile couple.
Source: The BioEthics Education Project (http://www.beep.ac.uk/content/114.0.html)
Artifact 2: Reflection Overall, students were much more engaged in the lecture using active learning versus the semester prior (without active learning). Evidence of this, could be noted in the high level of student engagement. At the end of the lecture when the case studies were presented student discussion actually ran over the class period. However, students stayed to finish final points. This showed that the student interest was high enough to find importance in concluding thoughts rather than rush out of the class. In addition, student feedback was very positive (and enthusiastic) about the material. Evidence of student satisfaction was present in the final class evaluations where numerous students mentioned that they really enjoyed my lecture.
Although I found success in use of the case studies to promote active learning, there are some changes that I would make to improve the student experience. As I mentioned before, learning through diversity has become part of my teaching focus. I was impressed and somewhat amazed at the responses I received from students when discussing the case studies. Although I was expecting scientific/biology answers some people brought in politics or religion. I even found out that one of the students had a sister born from IVF. I had never considered the diversity of opinion among students. I think it may be helpful in the future to perhaps survey the students prior to the class-period to understand their background and their current knowledge of the topic. This would allow me to adjust my lecture and also to remain respectful with a topic that can be rather controversial. Although I want to teach the topic, I don’t want to offend or to make students uncomfortable and so remembering to prepare for the diverse answers and understanding I will face is critical.
Artifact 3: Assessing the effectiveness of inquiry-based hands on outreach laboratory activities on improving student knowledge in genetics 3.A Abstract: Studies have shown that both middle and high school students in the United States have insufficient knowledge in the field of genetics. In addition, there is a high occurrence of misconceptions about genetic topics, especially those involving molecular genetics. Since these students are the future, it’s important to investigate and improve on current methods to best prepare them for careers and higher education. One way to improve student knowledge is to challenge them through inquiry-based learning, which focuses on deep-thinking and student collaboration. To incorporate these methods into student learning, a hands-on genetics laboratory activity was designed and implemented at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Twenty-seven seventh grade students participated in an hour and a half long laboratory that taught basic principles of DNA. Two main activities were used which fostered student discussion and exploration through collaboration and simulation of real laboratory experiments. Both activities were designed to address common misconceptions about molecular genetics/DNA presented by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science’s Project 2061. Assessment was done through pre-/post- testing to determine if the students were able to apply knowledge gained in the activity. The assessment consisted of four questions that integrated recall with application of knowledge. In addition, students were asked to rate their interest of genetics on a scale of 1-10. Results showed statistically significant improvement on overall pre-/post- test scores (Fisher’s Exact Test, P<0.05). In addition, analysis of individual questions showed statistically significant improvement for all questions comprising the total score (P<0.05). However, student interest in the topic remained statistically unchanged. Furthermore, there was no statistical difference between male and female scores. Overall, student scores improved suggesting that the methods used in this laboratory were successful in addressing common areas of misconceptions in genetics and resulted in improved student understanding.
3.B Introduction: The issue of education standards and the level of understanding our nation’s children have has become a growing issue. One method to assess how our student’s are learning is through national testing. The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAES) assesses knowledge in grades 4, 8 and 12 in the United States. Results from one of the most recent tests (in 2000) showed severe deficiencies in knowledge for both 8th and 12th grade, with one-quarter of the knowledge exam covering topics in genetics (O’Sullivan et al., 2003).
Among answers given for the genetics portion of the exam there were significant deficiencies on questions dealing with molecular genetics. On all questions within this area no topic had greater than 21% complete answers. Of the lowest scoring topic, “Interpreting Genetic Material”, there were only 1% complete answers and 83% incorrect answers given (O’Sullivan et al., 2003).
The American Society for Human Genetics posted a bulletin in 2008 highlighting a follow-up study. This study examined 500 randomly chosen essays from 2,443 total that were submitted for a National DNA Day Essay Contest (Mills Shaw et al., 2008). The purpose of this study was to identify if student misconceptions were still present in genetics and in what categories they could be defined. Among misconceptions, 17% were identified covering “genetic technology”, 14% with “patterns of inheritance”, 12.8% for both “deterministic nature of genes” and “nature of genes & genetic materials”, 8.4% for “genetic basis of disease”, 8.2% for “genetic research”, and 7% for reproductive technology (Mills Shaw et al., 2008). Thus, misconceptions and misunderstandings are still prevalent and need to be better addressed in the classroom.
One method at improving student performance and understanding in the classroom is by using an inquiry-based approach. Unlike more traditional methods, involving heavier emphasis on memorizing, this approach allows students to investigate problems to better understand the world around them. This methodology also encourages collaboration among students to become involved in deep thinking to test theories and draw conclusions from them. Opportunities may then also arise to relate their findings to everyday life or the world around them.
In a study from Michigan, an inquiry-based approach was used to teach science curriculum to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. This method utilizes real-world problems and allows the child to apply, investigate, and conclude how or why the issue is happening. Unlike more traditional methods, involving heavier emphasis on memorizing, this approach allows students to: Investigate problems to better understand the world around them, collaborate among students to become involved in deep thinking, and test theories and draw conclusions from them. Pre- and post-testing results showed significant (p < 0.01) improvement in test scores for each year a student participated (Marx et al., 2004). In addition, students who started with low-test scores showed significant improvement over time suggesting that these approaches may be effective for a wide range of students.
Thus, I hypothesize that the integration of inquiry-based methods for a hands-on laboratory activity will improve student knowledge in genetics.