1887

Enhancing Graduate Students’ Ability to Conduct and Communicate Research through an Interdisciplinary Lens

    Authors: Gili Marbach-Ad1,*, Jack Marr2
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    Affiliations: 1: College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742; 2: School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
    AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION AUTHOR AND ARTICLE INFORMATION
    Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2018 vol. 19 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i3.1592
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    Abstract:

    This research is a part of a longitudinal study of the Computation and Mathematics for Biological Networks (COMBINE) program at the University of Maryland. The mission of COMBINE is to train doctoral students from a wide range of fields to pursue interdisciplinary research. Here, we focus on one component of COMBINE, a semester-long course titled Data Practicum at the Intersection of the Physical, Computer, and Life Sciences. The goal of this study was to explore the effectiveness of the teaching practices that were used in the Data Practicum. We investigated their impact on graduate students’ confidence to conduct research through an interdisciplinary lens and to communicate their research to diverse audiences. We used validated pre- and post-course online surveys, in-class observations, collection of artifacts, and interviews. Interviewed students and instructors highlighted the course’s iterative process, peer review system, and unique incorporation of outside research already being conducted by students as the most impactful aspects of the course. Based on students’ reports and artifacts, the Data Practicum was successful in helping them to communicate their research visually, orally, and in text to a wide and varied audience, to critically review others’ work, inside and outside their discipline, and to develop awareness of research in other disciplines. We observed that it is possible to enhance interdisciplinary communication skills through an iterative teaching approach that gives students a chance to incorporate feedback from multiple sources. This course could serve as a model for other graduate programs wishing to increase training in interdisciplinary skills.

References & Citations

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2. Graybill JK, Dooling S, Shandas V, Withey J, Greve A, Simon GL 2006 A rough guide to interdisciplinarity: graduate student perspectives BioScience 56 9 757 763 10.1641/0006-3568(2006)56[757:ARGTIG]2.0.CO;2 http://dx.doi.org/10.1641/0006-3568(2006)56[757:ARGTIG]2.0.CO;2
3. Newswander LK, Borrego M 2009 Engagement in two interdisciplinary graduate programs High Educ 58 4 551 562 10.1007/s10734-009-9215-z http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10734-009-9215-z
4. Holley K 2009 The challenge of an interdisciplinary curriculum: a cultural analysis of a doctoral-degree program in neuroscience High Educ 58 2 241 255 10.1007/s10734-008-9193-6 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10734-008-9193-6
5. Borrego M, Newswander LK 2010 Definitions of interdisciplinary research: toward graduate-level interdisciplinary learning outcomes Rev High Educ 34 1 61 84 10.1353/rhe.2010.0006 http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/rhe.2010.0006
6. Palmer CL 1996 Information work at the boundaries of science: linking library services to research practices Library Trends 45 2 165 191 https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/8089/librarytrendsv45i2e_opt.pdf?sequence=1
7. Fiore SM 2008 Interdisciplinarity as teamwork: how the science of teams can inform team science Small Group Res 39 3 251 277 10.1177/1046496408317797 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1046496408317797
8. Stokols D, Misra S, Moser RP, Hall KL, Taylor BK 2008 The ecology of team science: understanding contextual influences on transdisciplinary collaboration Am Prev Med 35 2 S96 S115 10.1016/j.amepre.2008.05.003 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2008.05.003
9. Klein JT 1990 Interdisciplinarity: history, theory, and practice Wayne State University Press Detroit, MI
10. Committee on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research 2004 Facilitating interdisciplinary research The National Academies Press Washington, DC
11. Borrego M, Cutler S 2010 Constructive alignment of interdisciplinary graduate curriculum in engineering and science: an analysis of successful IGERT proposals J Engineer Educ 99 4 355 369 10.1002/j.2168-9830.2010.tb01068.x http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/j.2168-9830.2010.tb01068.x
12. Repko AF 2008 Interdisciplinary research Sage Thousand Oaks, CA
13. Bruhn JG 2000 Interdisciplinary research: a philosophy, art form, artifact or antidote? Integr Psych Behav Sci 35 1 58 66 10.1007/BF02911166 http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02911166
14. Dunbar K 1997 How scientists think: on-line creativity and conceptual change in science Ward TB, Smith SM, Vaid S Conceptual structures and processes: emergence, discovery and change APA Press Washington, DC
15. Rhoten D, Pfirman S 2007 Women in interdisciplinary science: exploring preferences and consequences Res Policy 36 1 56 75 10.1016/j.respol.2006.08.001 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2006.08.001
16. Kiffin-Petersen S, Cordery J 2003 Trust, individualism and job characteristics as predictors of employee preference for teamwork Int J Human Res Manage 14 1 93 116
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19. O’Meara K, Hall S, Culpepper D 2018 NRT student survey LSC Internal Evaluation Report University of Maryland College Park, MD https://languagescience.umd.edu/sites/languagescience.umd.edu/files/lsc/general/doc/nrt-2018_internal_evaluation_third_year_report.pdf
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22. National Science Foundation 2006 National Science Foundation investing in America’s future strategic plan FY 2006–2011 (No. NSF 06-48) National Science Foundation Arlington, VA

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/content/journal/jmbe/10.1128/jmbe.v19i3.1592
2018-12-14
2019-03-21

Abstract:

This research is a part of a longitudinal study of the Computation and Mathematics for Biological Networks (COMBINE) program at the University of Maryland. The mission of COMBINE is to train doctoral students from a wide range of fields to pursue interdisciplinary research. Here, we focus on one component of COMBINE, a semester-long course titled Data Practicum at the Intersection of the Physical, Computer, and Life Sciences. The goal of this study was to explore the effectiveness of the teaching practices that were used in the Data Practicum. We investigated their impact on graduate students’ confidence to conduct research through an interdisciplinary lens and to communicate their research to diverse audiences. We used validated pre- and post-course online surveys, in-class observations, collection of artifacts, and interviews. Interviewed students and instructors highlighted the course’s iterative process, peer review system, and unique incorporation of outside research already being conducted by students as the most impactful aspects of the course. Based on students’ reports and artifacts, the Data Practicum was successful in helping them to communicate their research visually, orally, and in text to a wide and varied audience, to critically review others’ work, inside and outside their discipline, and to develop awareness of research in other disciplines. We observed that it is possible to enhance interdisciplinary communication skills through an iterative teaching approach that gives students a chance to incorporate feedback from multiple sources. This course could serve as a model for other graduate programs wishing to increase training in interdisciplinary skills.

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FIGURE 1

Students’ average responses (spring 2017, =13; spring 2018, =10) to the Likert-type question, “What skills did you gain or improve from taking the course?” (1=Not at all, 2=Not much, 3=Somewhat, 4=To a good extent, and 5=To a great extent). Error bars indicate standard deviations.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2018 vol. 19 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i3.1592
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Image of FIGURE 2

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FIGURE 2

Student responses on the pre and post surveys to the Likert-type question, “At this time, how confident do you feel in your ability to…” (=23) (1=Not at all, 2=Not much, 3=Somewhat, 4=To a good extent, and 5=To a great extent. *<0.05; **<0.01.

Source: J. Microbiol. Biol. Educ. December 2018 vol. 19 no. 3 doi:10.1128/jmbe.v19i3.1592
Download as Powerpoint

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