With the introduction of active learning, STEM undergraduate classrooms are becoming more social environments. However, the dynamics between students and its impact on student learning are vastly underexplored. My research utilizes portable and wearable brain technologies, such as portable electroencephalography (EEG), to investigate how students interact with one another in biology classrooms.
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Laboratory courses provide a unique opportunity to introduce students to what it means to “do science.” Laboratory course activities, however, are often misaligned with authentic scientific thinking and practices. Designing curricula that engage students in authentic scientific practices is challenging, particularly when per-student resources are limited, such as at large public universities. To meet this challenge, we have developed, taught and assessed a model-based inquiry laboratory curriculum, Authentic Inquiry through Modeling in Biology (AIM-Bio).
Our lab is driven by the objective of science for all. Science continues to be primarily an exclusive domain that does not represent the diversity of our larger population. And, individuals outside of science careers often have relatively small roles in decision-making about the socio-scientific issues we face. As a result, science continues to suffer from the lack of diverse perspectives that influence and expand the questions we ask, what we observe, and how we interpret data. Our research addresses two general problems: 1, how can we develop a diverse next generation of biologists?
To gain expertise in a field is to understand and use underlying disciplinary principles. Too often students rely on rote memorization to solve problems rather than apply appropriate principles of physics that governs biological phenomena, that is, use principle-based reasoning. Students who rely on memorization can list the steps of generating an action potential or stomatal opening but cannot reason to a correct prediction when changes are introduced in the system, e.g. when a toxin is applied.
Building a successful and inclusive classroom can be complicated! Using two examples of courses I teach I will outline practices I use to improve engagement, growth, and achievement in our biology students. I will also share novel student-centered teaching practices I use to engage students in a large-lecture non-majors physiology course and how those practices have spread through my work with UW in the High School. Additionally, UW Biology has recently undertaken a new upper-division human anatomy lab course which I have designed and implemented this year.