1887

Learning Science Communication Skills Using Improvisation, Video Recordings, and Practice, Practice, Practice

    Authors: Nicholas M. Ponzio1,*, Janet Alder2, Mary Nucci3, David Dannenfelser4, Holly Hilton5, Nikolaos Linardopoulos6, Carol Lutz7
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    Affiliations: 1: Department of Pathology, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Rutgers School of Graduate Studies, Newark, NJ 07101; 2: Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers School of Graduate Studies, Piscataway, NJ 08854; 3: Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, New Brunswick, NJ 08901; 4: Theater Arts program – Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, New Brunswick, NJ 08901; 5: Acurian Inc., Horsham, PA 19044; 6: Rutgers School of Communication and Information, New Brunswick, NJ 08901; 7: Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Rutgers School of Graduate Studies, Newark, NJ 07101
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. March 2018 vol. 19 no. 1 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i1.1433
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    Abstract:

    Doctoral students in science disciplines spend countless hours learning how to conduct cutting-edge research but very little time learning to communicate the nature and significance of their science to people outside their field. To narrow this disparity, we created an unusual course titled Communicating Science for doctoral science trainees at Rutgers University. Our goal was to help students develop an advanced ability to communicate their research clearly and accurately and to emphasize its value and significance to diverse audiences. Course design included classroom instruction supplemented with improvisation, video recordings, and ample opportunity for students to practice and receive immediate, constructive feedback in a supportive environment. A multidisciplinary faculty with expertise in science, education, communication, and theater arts taught this course. PhD students came from diverse scientific disciplines, ranging from biology and chemistry to civil engineering. Students also completed a capstone project in which they worked with a professional in the academic or private sector to explore a possible career aspiration. Assessment was in the form of feedback on students’ oral and poster presentations, and written abstracts about their research. Student evaluations and comments about course format and content were mostly positive and also provided input for ways to improve the course. We discovered that the diversity of scientific backgrounds among our students enhanced their ability to learn how to communicate their science to others outside their disciplines. We are leveraging the success of our initial course offering to reach other student and faculty groups at Rutgers.

References & Citations

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2. Leshner AI2007Outreach training neededScience31516110.1126/science.113871217218495 http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1138712
3. Brownell SE, Price JV, Steinman L2013Science communication to the general public: why we need to teach undergraduate and graduate students this skill as part of their formal scientific trainingJ Undergrad Neurosci Educ12e6e10243193993852879
4. Ausiello D2007Science education and communication: AAP Presidential AddressJ Clin Invest1173128313010.1172/JCI33385179096331994634 http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/JCI33385
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6. Neeley L, Goldman E, Smith B, Baron N, Sunu S2015GradSciComm report and recommendations: mapping the pathways to integrate science communication training into STEM graduate educationCOMPASSwww.informalscience.org/sites/default/files/GradSciComm_Roadmap_Final.compressed.pdf
7. Varner J2014Scientific outreach: toward effective public engagement with biological scienceBioScience64433334010.1093/biosci/biu021 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biu021
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9. Alda A2017If I understood you, would I have this look on my face?Random HouseNew York
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12. Bloome BS, Englehart M, Furst E, Hill W, Krathwohl D1956Taxonomy of educational objectives handbook I: The cognitive domainDavid McKay Co. Inc.New York
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15. Downs JS2014Prescriptive scientific narratives for communicating usable scienceProc Natl Acad Sci USA111Suppl 4136271363310.1073/pnas.1317502111252253694183172 http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1317502111
16. Dahlstrom MF2014Using narratives and storytelling to communicate science with nonexpert audiencesProc Natl Acad Sci USA111Suppl 4136141362010.1073/pnas.1320645111252253684183170 http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1320645111
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2018-03-30
2018-07-18

Abstract:

Doctoral students in science disciplines spend countless hours learning how to conduct cutting-edge research but very little time learning to communicate the nature and significance of their science to people outside their field. To narrow this disparity, we created an unusual course titled Communicating Science for doctoral science trainees at Rutgers University. Our goal was to help students develop an advanced ability to communicate their research clearly and accurately and to emphasize its value and significance to diverse audiences. Course design included classroom instruction supplemented with improvisation, video recordings, and ample opportunity for students to practice and receive immediate, constructive feedback in a supportive environment. A multidisciplinary faculty with expertise in science, education, communication, and theater arts taught this course. PhD students came from diverse scientific disciplines, ranging from biology and chemistry to civil engineering. Students also completed a capstone project in which they worked with a professional in the academic or private sector to explore a possible career aspiration. Assessment was in the form of feedback on students’ oral and poster presentations, and written abstracts about their research. Student evaluations and comments about course format and content were mostly positive and also provided input for ways to improve the course. We discovered that the diversity of scientific backgrounds among our students enhanced their ability to learn how to communicate their science to others outside their disciplines. We are leveraging the success of our initial course offering to reach other student and faculty groups at Rutgers.

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