Designing an Audiocast Assignment: A Primary-Literature-Based Approach that Promotes Student Learning of Cell and Molecular Biology through Conversations with Scientist Authors †
We believe that conversations between students and scientist authors that link recently published research to fundamental concepts taught in undergraduate biology courses can serve to engage students and enhance learning. To explore this hypothesis, we designed an assignment in a 2nd year cell and molecular biology course in which students read a scientific article, conduct an interview with the corresponding author of the publication, and then produce an audiocast (or videocast). The audiocast summarizes the paper’s findings and describes how the research advance links back to fundamental concepts discussed in the course and its implications for the field. Feedback from student surveys has been positive and suggests that students felt they developed important analytical skills and a better understanding of the process of science through participation in this assignment. Students enjoyed the interactions with scientists and reported on how their learning from primary literature was enriched by asking questions of the authors. Importantly, the assignment had a very positive influence on student attitudes towards research; this is increasingly important at a time when public involvement in debates about scientific funding cuts is critical. We hope this assignment will be of interest to other instructors that teach undergraduate foundation courses in the life sciences.
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