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Method to Increase Undergraduate Laboratory Student Confidence in Performing Independent Research

    Authors: Colton E. Kempton1, K. Scott Weber1, Steven M. Johnson1,*
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1230
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    Abstract:

    The goal of an undergraduate laboratory course should be not only to introduce the students to biology methodologies and techniques, but also to teach them independent analytical thinking skills and proper experiment design. This is especially true for advanced biology laboratory courses that undergraduate students typically take as a junior or senior in college. Many courses achieve the goal of teaching techniques, but fail to approach the larger goal of teaching critical thinking, experimental design, and student independence. Here we describe a study examining the application of the scaffolding instructional philosophy in which students are taught molecular techniques with decreasing guidance to force the development of analytical thinking skills and prepare undergraduate students for independent laboratory research. This method was applied to our advanced molecular biology laboratory class and resulted in an increase of confidence among the undergraduate students in their abilities to perform independent research.

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2017-04-21
2017-09-25

Abstract:

The goal of an undergraduate laboratory course should be not only to introduce the students to biology methodologies and techniques, but also to teach them independent analytical thinking skills and proper experiment design. This is especially true for advanced biology laboratory courses that undergraduate students typically take as a junior or senior in college. Many courses achieve the goal of teaching techniques, but fail to approach the larger goal of teaching critical thinking, experimental design, and student independence. Here we describe a study examining the application of the scaffolding instructional philosophy in which students are taught molecular techniques with decreasing guidance to force the development of analytical thinking skills and prepare undergraduate students for independent laboratory research. This method was applied to our advanced molecular biology laboratory class and resulted in an increase of confidence among the undergraduate students in their abilities to perform independent research.

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Figures

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FIGURE 1

Overview of the application of the weaning philosophy and approach. The weaning approach is applied to any laboratory class by initially providing students with protocols that are highly modified by the professor (1 and 2), followed by protocols with decreasing amounts of professor modifications and protocols with no professor modifications (3), and finally resources from which the students must extrapolate protocols (4 and 5). Ultimately, students are not provided with protocols, but instead find protocols on their own (last). The red color on the left that decreases from top to bottom represents the amount of student dependence on the written instructions from the professor, and the blue color on the right that increases from top to bottom represents the amount of student independence at each stage of the weaning.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1230
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Specific application of the weaning philosophy and approach. The name of each specific module (left) is listed with its accompanying experiments (middle) and the type of resources that are provided for those experiments (right). The color and intensity of the background fields of the modules represent the amount of professor dependence (red) or student independence (blue) in each module (see Fig. 1 ). Experiments listed in green print are procedures that the students have learned in previous modules. The other color print (black or white) differs only for ease of reading.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. April 2017 vol. 18 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v18i1.1230
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