Creation, Assessment and Dissemination of Interdisciplinary Research - based Curriculum
Educators today are faced with the challenge of: (1) providing students with the skills and knowledge required for cross-discipline success, and (2) engaging students in research experiences that will motivate and retain them in S.T.E.M-related fields. Undergraduate research experiences help to address both these objectives. It has been demonstrated that research experience can play a role in increased student retention, graduation rates, entrance into graduate schools and motivation to pursue advance degrees and careers in science. Providing research experiences during the undergraduate years exposes students to different facets of science not available in a regular curriculum.
This paper describes a novel interdisciplinary, research-based laboratory curriculum, beta testing of the new curriculum and preliminary assessment and evaluation data. Using the pesticide degrading bacterium, Brevundimonas diminuta as an anchor organism, the curriculum follows a logical progression starting with isolation and identification of pesticide degrading soil microbes, gene cloning, gene expression, bioprocessing of the gene product and commercial applications, thus demonstrating the life cycle of a typical biotechnology product. These series of laboratory protocols use a guided inquiry method to teach appropriate techniques and skills and help students build a bridge between materials presented in courses and applications in real life. Students then apply these concepts and techniques in independently designed investigations.
Preliminary data on beta-testing the new curriculum indicates that these modules can be successfully integrated into new or existing courses. Preliminary data from direct assessment on student performance indicate significant leaning gains in skills and knowledge. In addition, the Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) results support results of direct student assessments.
The new curriculum provides research experience that is integrated within the curriculum and is different than the traditional model where students conduct independent research projects under a faculty mentor.
The structure of the curriculum provides a logical coordination between the biotechnology modules, yet it is flexible enough to be integrated into other courses such as microbiology, genetics, and environmental sciences and bioprocessing.