PILOTing Undergraduate Students to Hands-On Teaching and Research Skills †
Undergraduate research can make a positive impact on science education. Unfortunately, the one student-one mentor paradigm of undergraduate research generates a wide range of variability in the student’s experience and further limits its availability to a select few students. In contrast, a single faculty member can offer multiple undergraduate teaching positions that provide a consistent experience for the student. We attempted to combine the undergraduate research and teaching experiences in an internship practicum called Peer Instruction and Laboratory Occupational Training (PILOT). Students enrolled in PILOT served as teaching assistants for the upper division Quantitative Biological Methods (QBM) laboratory course. In addition, PILOT students worked on an independent lab project that provided them with hands-on training and supported the QBM course. The development of presentation and teaching skills was also emphasized in PILOT. These activities were designed to improve student communication skills, lab skills, and knowledge of molecular biology content. Here, we describe the PILOT curriculum and report the results of an anonymous assessment survey administered to 75 students who had completed PILOT in the previous five semesters. Our data indicate that PILOT provides an effective format to expand undergraduate opportunities for research and teaching experiences.
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