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Integrating Writing into a Cell Biology Laboratory Class. Alison Crowe Department of Biology University of Washington. Department of Biology. > 1000 undergraduate biology majors 70% cell and molecular/physiology Laboratory classes are technique-oriented. Objective

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integrating writing into a cell biology laboratory class

Integrating Writing into a Cell Biology Laboratory Class

Alison Crowe

Department of Biology

University of Washington

department of biology
Department of Biology
  • > 1000 undergraduate biology majors
  • 70% cell and molecular/physiology
  • Laboratory classes are technique-oriented
biol 402 cell biology lab
Objective

Design an inquiry-based cell biology laboratory class with an integral writing component that teaches students about the scientific process

Mechanics

Teach the same class three consecutive quarters with different senior biology majors each quarter. Students participate in an on-going research project culminating in submission of a written research proposal

Biol 402: Cell Biology Lab
biol 402 advanced cell biology lab research focus
Biol 402 Advanced Cell Biology Lab Research Focus

Question: How do plants respond rapidly to environmental challenges at the level of gene regulation?

Model system: Arabidopsis

Approach: Assess role of chromatin regulatory factors in regulating stress- induced gene expression

Tool: Arabidopsis knock-out mutants

why an inquiry based course
Why an Inquiry-Based Course?
  • Provide students with real

research experience

  • Increase students’ understanding of

scientific process

  • Help students realize how little is known
  • Help students recognize role reading and writing play in scientific research
  • Encourage students to be creative
why a writing based course
Why a Writing-Based Course?
  • Scientists write
  • Writing = Learning
  • Opportunity to practice discipline-specific writing skills
  • Written record
    • Continuity of ideas
    • Potential to publish findings
4 x 4 writing initiative
4 x 4 Writing Initiative
  • UW College of Arts & Sciences faculty development program
    • Goal: improve student writing across the college
  • 4 faculty from 4 different departments
  • Year-long project to re-design or design a new course with writing-integrated instruction
writing integrated course design
Writing-integrated Course Design
  • Create writing assignments that are directly associated with the goals of the course
  • Avoid traditional “term paper” assignment
  • Give students “low-stakes” opportunities to practice writing skills
  • Share grading criteria and models of good papers
  • Broaden the audience/importance of the writing assignments
slide9

Develop hypotheses

Develop Biological Tools

Assess Biological Tools

Design Experiments

Write Research Proposal

FALL

WINTER

Review Research Proposals

Develop Hypotheses

Refine Biological Tools

Assess Biological Tools

Design Experiments

Write Research Proposal

Review Panel

Criteria Rubric

SPRING

Review Research Proposals

Refine Hypotheses

Assess Biological Tools

Design Experiments

Perform Experiments

Write Research Proposal

Review Panel

Criteria Rubric

biol 402 fall quarter activities
Biol 402Fall Quarter Activities
  • Read and present assigned article to class (gene-specific groups)

Research a topic

Critically evaluate existing data

  • Develop hypotheses

Identify unanswered questions

3.Develop and assess biological tools

Gain hands-on practice designing & performing experiments

Gain technical skills

Understand how scientific data is generated

4. Write a NIH-style research proposal

Understand the scientific research process

biol 402 fall quarter writing integrated course design
Biol 402-Fall QuarterWriting-integrated Course Design
  • Assignments associated with course goals
    • Course goal: learn how to develop a hypothesis
    • Assignment: review literature and write “Background & Significance” that identifies unanswered questions in the field
  • “Low-stakes” opportunities to practice writing skills
    • Students receive written feedback on ungraded drafts of each section of research proposal
  • Broaden audience
    • Students have vested interest in writing strong proposals so their proposals are “funded” the next quarter
scaffolding research proposal writing process for fall quarter
Scaffolding Research Proposal Writing Process for Fall Quarter
  • Introduce research topic
  • Introduce experimental methods
  • Assign and discuss individual sections of new research proposal (draft of one section due each week)
  • Provide written feedback on eachdraft

(minimal marking)

  • Grade final research proposals using specific rating criteria
research proposal evaluation criteria
Research Proposal Evaluation Criteria
  • Context/Interest

Hypothesis & Specific Aims Context

Hypothesis

Specific Aims

Background & Significance Introduce relevant topics

Literature review

Broader significance

  • Data Presentation/Argument

Preliminary data results

Interpretation/relevance

Experimental methods

  • Research Design

Overall design/expected outcomes

Alternate outcomes

Limitations of research design

  • Overall Presentation

Informative figures, spelling etc.

research proposal grading rubric hypothesis
Research Proposal Grading Rubric:Hypothesis

Criteria

1. Context/interest

  • Hypothesis & Aims
    • Context
    • Hypothesis

1 = prediction not a hypothesis

2 = untestable and/or trivial hypothesis

3 = testable hypothesis, but lacking specificity or creativity

4 = creative/novel testable hypothesis

    • Specific Aims
slide15

Criteria

% students

who lost points

  • Context

Hypothesis & Aims

Context 50

Hypothesis 77

Specific Aims 91

Background & Significance

Introduce topics 50

Literature review 73

Broader significance 59

  • Data Presentation/Argument

Preliminary data results 73

Interpretation/relevance 73

Experimental methods 68

  • Research Design

Overall design 68

Alternate outcomes 77

Limitations 91

bloom s taxonomy
Bloom’s Taxonomy

Evaluation

Synthesis

Analysis

Application

Comprehension

Knowledge

Bloom, B.S., 1956

slide17

Criteria

Synthesis/

Evaluation

% students

who lost points

  • Context

Hypothesis & Aims

Context 50

Hypothesis 77

Specific Aims 91

Background & Significance

Introduce topics 50

Literature review 73

Broader significance 59

  • Data Presentation/Argument

Preliminary data results 73

Interpretation/relevance 73

Experimental methods 68

  • Research Design

Overall design 68

Alternate outcomes 77

Limitations 91

Application/

Analysis

Knowledge/

Comprehension

identification of weaknesses in students scientific writing
Identification of Weaknesses in Students’ Scientific Writing

Synthesis/

Application/

Knowledge/

Evaluation

Analysis

Comprehension

100.0

80.0

60.0

% Possible Points

40.0

20.0

0.0

Results

Context

Methods

Relevance

Lit Review

Limitations

Hypothesis

Exp Design

Significance

Presentation

Alt Outcomes

Introduction

Specific Aims

slide19

Winter Quarter Activities

Read and present assigned article to class

2. Peer review previous quarters’ research

proposals

Learn components of research proposal

Use guidelines to evaluate proposal

Perform role of expert

3. Refine and assess biological tools

4. Write a NIH-style research proposal

scaffolding of research proposal writing process for winter quarter
Scaffolding of Research Proposal Writing Process for Winter Quarter
  • Introduce research topic
  • Introduce experimental methods
  • Introduce evaluation criteria
  • Assign research proposals to review
  • Hold scientific review panel
    • Each team selects one proposal to “fund”
  • Assign and discuss individual sections of new research proposal
  • Provide students with detailed rating criteria
  • Provide written feedback and rating criteria feedback on eachdraft
  • Grade final research proposals with rating criteria
research proposal grading rubric hypothesis21
Research Proposal Grading Rubric:Hypothesis

Criteria

1. Context/interest

  • Hypothesis & Aims
    • Context
    • Hypothesis

1 = prediction not a hypothesis

2 = untestable and/or trivial hypothesis

3 = testable hypothesis, but lacking specificity or creativity

4 = creative/novel testable hypothesis

    • Specific Aims
norming session
Norming Session
  • Hypothesis #1:

We hypothesize that knocking out the function of the histone acetyl transferase HAC1 will cause downregulation of heat-shock response genes

  • Hypothesis #2:

We hypothesize that the histone deacetylase HD2C mediates the upregulation of cold responsive genes during cold acclimation in Arabidopsis by binding to COR gene promoters

  • Hypothesis #3:

We hypothesize that the INO80 homolog CHR21 is necessary for the heat stress response in Arabidopsis

1

4

3

increase in research proposal scores after implementation of rubric peer review

Synthesis/

Evaluation

Knowledge/

Comprehension

Increase in Research Proposal Scores After Implementation of Rubric/Peer-Review

35.0

30.0

Hypothesis

Relevance

25.0

Specific Aims

Alt Outcomes

Application/

20.0

Results

Analysis

Limitations

Presentation

15.0

Lit Review

% Change

Context

10.0

Significance

5.0

0.0

-5.0

-10.0

Introduction

Exp Design

Methods

Average total score on research proposals increased from 76% to 82%

findings
Findings

Students performed best on writing assignments that required a knowledge and/or comprehension level of understanding

Students had the most difficulty with writing assignments requiring synthesis of new ideas and/or critical evaluation of data

Introduction of peer review and grading rubric coincided with an overall increase in student writing performance, particularly on assignments requiring higher levels of thinking

student evaluation of course activities how beneficial was this course activity to your learning

Section A (n=11)

Section B (n=10)

Combined

Student Evaluation of Course Activities:How beneficial was this course activity to your learning?

3.5

3

2.5

2

1 = very beneficial

2 = somewhat

3 = no effect

4 = detrimental

Median score

1.5

1

0.5

0

Lab Reports

Research Proposal

Designing Experiments

Developing Hypotheses

Performing Experiments

Journal Club Presentation

Winter 2007

student assessment of teaching strategies
Student Assessment of Teaching Strategies

1 = Very beneficial

2 = Somewhat

3 = Not effective

4 = Detrimental

Winter 2007

course evaluation directed lab vs inquiry based lab

6

Directed

Inquiry

5

4

Median Score

3

2

1

0

Overall

Content

Instructor’s

effectiveness

Interest level

Use of lab time

Amount learned

Questions raised

Course EvaluationDirected Lab vs. Inquiry-Based Lab

5 = Excellent

4 = Very Good

3 = Good

2 = Poor

1 = Very Poor

concluding comments
Concluding Comments

Students find this integrated experience to be more “complete” and “rewarding” than that of a typical laboratory class

Making writing an integral component of the laboratory greatly increases the time students spend thinking about their research projects outside of class

Draft process enables students and instructor to recognize and address conceptual difficulties early in the quarter

Having students participate in all aspects of the research process (doing, thinking and writing) provides students with a very challenging yet “safe” real research experience

slide29

How People Learn

Rudderless

learners

Adaptive

experts

synthesis

evaluation

analysis

Imagination

application

knowledge

comprehension

Routine

experts

Expertise

John Bransford

slide30

Acknowledgments

  • UW College of Arts & Sciences 4 x 4 Writing Project
    • John Webster, Writing Director
    • Jennie Dorman, CIDR
  • UW Department of Biology 4 x 4 Participants
  • Doug Ewing, Greenhouse Manager
  • Mary Williams, Harvey Mudd College
  • Biol 402 Graduate Teaching Assistants
  • Jeff Rasmussen, Valerie Virta, Brian Schultz, Erin Jezuit & Justin Mirus
  • Biol 402 Peer Teaching Assistants
      • Kalynn Simmons, J Austill, Jillian Yoshi & Connor Tyler
  • UW Department of Biology Travel Grant
  • UW-HHMI Undergraduate Biology Education Program