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Participation in a Year-Long CURE Embedded into Major Core Genetics and Cellular and Molecular Biology Laboratory Courses Results in Gains in Foundational Biological Concepts and Experimental Design Skills by Novice Undergraduate Researchers

    Authors: Marcy A. Peteroy-Kelly1,*, Matthew R. Marcello1, Erika Crispo1, Zafir Buraei1, Daniel Strahs1, Marisa Isaacson1, Leslie Jaworski2, David Lopatto2, David Zuzga3
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Pace University, NY, NY 10038; 2: Department of Psychology, Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA 50112; 3: Department of Biology, LaSalle University, Philadelphia, PA 19141
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    • Received 26 August 2016 Accepted 16 October 2016 Published 21 April 2017
    • ©2017 Author(s). Published by the American Society for Microbiology.
    • [open-access] This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/legalcode), which grants the public the nonexclusive right to copy, distribute, or display the published work.

    • Supplemental materials available at http://asmscience.org/jmbe
    • *Corresponding author. Mailing address: Department of Biology, Pace University, 1 Pace Plaza, Room W330, New York, NY 10038. Phone: 212-346-1353. Fax: 212-346-1256. E-mail: mkelly2@pace.edu.
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1226
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    Abstract:

    This two-year study describes the assessment of student learning gains arising from participation in a year-long curriculum consisting of a classroom undergraduate research experience (CURE) embedded into second-year, major core Genetics and Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) laboratory courses. For the first course in our CURE, students used micro-array or RNAseq analyses to identify genes important for environmental stress responses by . The students were tasked with creating overexpressing mutants of their genes and designing their own original experiments to investigate the functions of those genes using the overexpression and null mutants in the second CURE course. In order to evaluate student learning gains, we employed three validated concept inventories in a pretest/posttest format and compared gains on the posttest versus the pretest with student laboratory final grades. Our results demonstrated that there was a significant correlation between students earning lower grades in the Genetics laboratory for both years of this study and gains on the Genetics Concept Assessment (GCA). We also demonstrated a correlation between students earning lower grades in the Genetics laboratory and gains on the Introductory Molecular and Cell Biology Assessment (IMCA) for year 1 of the study. Students furthermore demonstrated significant gains in identifying the variable properties of experimental subjects when assessed using the Rubric for Experimental (RED) design tool. Results from the administration of the CURE survey support these findings. Our results suggest that a year-long CURE enables lower performing students to experience greater gains in their foundational skills for success in the STEM disciplines.

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2017-04-21
2017-12-18

Abstract:

This two-year study describes the assessment of student learning gains arising from participation in a year-long curriculum consisting of a classroom undergraduate research experience (CURE) embedded into second-year, major core Genetics and Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) laboratory courses. For the first course in our CURE, students used micro-array or RNAseq analyses to identify genes important for environmental stress responses by . The students were tasked with creating overexpressing mutants of their genes and designing their own original experiments to investigate the functions of those genes using the overexpression and null mutants in the second CURE course. In order to evaluate student learning gains, we employed three validated concept inventories in a pretest/posttest format and compared gains on the posttest versus the pretest with student laboratory final grades. Our results demonstrated that there was a significant correlation between students earning lower grades in the Genetics laboratory for both years of this study and gains on the Genetics Concept Assessment (GCA). We also demonstrated a correlation between students earning lower grades in the Genetics laboratory and gains on the Introductory Molecular and Cell Biology Assessment (IMCA) for year 1 of the study. Students furthermore demonstrated significant gains in identifying the variable properties of experimental subjects when assessed using the Rubric for Experimental (RED) design tool. Results from the administration of the CURE survey support these findings. Our results suggest that a year-long CURE enables lower performing students to experience greater gains in their foundational skills for success in the STEM disciplines.

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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1

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FIGURE 1

Comparison between year 1 and year 2 Genetics and CMB laboratory grades. Comparison bars indicate statistically significant differences in grades earned. Error bars represent standard error of the mean. CMB = Cellular and Molecular Biology

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1226
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Comparison of year 1 and year 2 pretest vs posttest scores on the CGA ( 38 ) and the IMCA ( 37 ) concept inventories. Comparison bars indicate statistically significant differences in grades earned. Corresponding Wilcoxon signed-rank test values are reported in Table 2 . Error bars represent standard error of the mean. GCA = Genetics Concept Assessment; IMCA = Introductory Molecular and Cell Biology Assessment.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1226
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Image of FIGURE 3

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FIGURE 3

Correlations between (A) year 1 Genetics, (B) year 1 CMB, (C) year 2 Genetics, and (D) year 2 CMB laboratory final grades and gains on the GCA and IMCA. Corresponding Spearman rank correlation values are reported in Table 3 . GCA = Genetics Concept Assessment; IMCA = Introductory Molecular and Cell Biology Assessment; CMB = Cellular and Molecular Biology.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1226
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Image of FIGURE 4

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FIGURE 4

Measurement of student ability to design experiments. The year 2 students were asked to answer two separate sets of questions that each described experimental scenarios (the and as described in 6). Student answers were probed and coded by two independent raters for responses in five different key areas of experimental design as defined by Dasgupta’s RED. The five key areas are: variable property of experimental subject, manipulation of variables, measurement of outcome, accounting for variability, and scope of inference. Students earned a score of one point if they provided evidence that they successfully identified elements to satisfy each area of experimental design for each experimental scenario. Therefore, for each area of experimental design, students could receive a maximum of two points. Comparison bars indicate statistically significant differences in grades earned. Error bars represent standard error of the mean.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1226
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Image of FIGURE 5

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FIGURE 5

Mean ratings by a cohort of students from both years of this study (n = 16) of their perceived gains in the 25 course element areas of the CURE survey ( 21 ). Course elements that are matched to our CURE course gains appear on the left side of the figure. Mean ratings are derived from student responses to a Likert-type scale survey, where a score of 1 was equivalent to the student perception that he or she had no experience or felt inexperienced in the element and a score of 5 was equivalent to the student perception that he or she had much experience or had mastered the element. Error bars represent standard error of the mean. CURE = course-based undergraduate research experience.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1226
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