Our latest “from the field” blog entry reports from Washington, DC, where NCEP Director Dr. Ana Luz Porzecanski and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Kate Hanson attended a conference hosted by the US National Science Foundation’s TUES (Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science) program. Major themes discussed in this year’s conference included Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL), Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), mixed-level classrooms combining early and advanced undergraduate students, and the impact of NSF’s 2011 Vision and Change – a landmark publication on scientific teaching.
Ana and Kate presented a poster reporting the results to date of our TUES-funded project “Developing and Assessing Process Skills in Conservation Biology and Other Integrative Fields.” This NCEP led project convenes faculty participants from 17 academic institutions across the US, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Now entering its third year, the project creates, pilots, and evaluates exercises and assessment tools to promote the development of three key skills – critical thinking, data analysis, and oral communication – in students of biological sciences.
Our TUES project advances NCEP exercises associated with current modules including Applied Demography and What is Biodiversity (expanded for teaching data analysis), Amphibian Declines and Story of an Invasion (expanded for teaching critical thinking), and Why is Biodiversity Important? (expanded for teaching oral communication). With the development of student exercises and addition of student self-evaluation tools and instructor evaluation tools, these modules are now geared to teach and assess both content and key skills. As the TUES project progresses, these modules will continue to be revised and in the future will be made available to all NCEP educators via our website.
To date, our TUES project has piloted the developed exercises and assessment tools in 13 courses across 17 institutions, and we have analyzed data from 308 participating students. Our results indicate that students can gain in both content and skill within the course of a semester. As faculty participants prepare for a second semester of implementation, we will be analyzing how student gains in skill correlate with gains in content and student confidence, as well as comparing student gains between high- and low-intensity teaching intervention treatments.
The NCEP team and faculty participants will be presenting additional findings at the upcoming 26th International Congress on Conservation Biology in Baltimore, MD in July 2013 – stay tuned and fellow conference attendees, please join us! Follow the NCEP blog and Facebook page for updates and scheduling information.