Notes from Session II – Trinity HHMI conference on Integrative STEM Learning

My notes from the second session of  Trinity’s HHMI conference on Integrative Learning in STEM.

An introductory biology course that involves every student in authentic research
Clark Lindgren (Grinnell College)

  • Skills were a unifying idea; couldn’t agree on Biology “caon”, but could agree on skills a biologist needs
  • Intro course culminates in a research project (answer/outcome is unknown, even to instructor)
  • groups of three are ideal size fr groups; group management needed( important skill for science) but no one ends p on periphery
  • Poster session
  • success of project aided by ongoing discussion of national trends and curricular reform; small class sizes (35 in Intro classes), students are well-prepared; institution is not oriented to professions (not a big demand for pre-med)
  • eliminated all non-majors courses; everyone takes Intro, whether they wll continue in biology or not
  • learning gains were independent of learning styles (active vs. passive)
  • CURE survey used for assessment; but didn’t gather baseline data
  • in-house undergraduate student journal; skype seminars; share resources

Developing an interdisciplinary STEM community
Anne Kruchten and Brian Gilbert (Linfield College)

  • responding to national calls to develop scientists (e.g. Vision and Change)
  • local goals: build enrollment, build interdisciplinary community as well as id problem-solving skills
  • barriers: bias against taking multiple STEM classes at the same time… need to address this in the advising process
  • barriers: STEM students are in same intro classes as pre-professional classes; can get lost
  • barrier: disciplinary silos
  • Programs: Interdisciplinary science seminars address question (e.g. what is a protein and why does it fold?)from different perspectives and different disciplinary languages
  • iFOCUS: interdisciplinary first year orientation camp for undergraduate science; pre-frosch week to introduce new students to the labs; includes social evets and field trips; led by peer-mentors
  • cost $8,000 for 10 students (fcuty stipends, studeet food, transportation)
  • outcomes: students enrolled in one or more STEM courses; several students immediately joined labs; peer mentors developed leadership skills; developed a STEM community which continues in study groups, social ties
  • Future: enrollment patterns, research involvement, leadership, persistence, add math and computer science; limits of scaling? use of iFOCUS as a recruitment tool, give preference to applicants interested in science research over students who are pre-med

Predictors of student success in an integrative introductory biology curriculum
Michele Johnson and Jonathan King (Trinity University)

  • Intro course is a collaborative effort developed over the course of 7-8 years
  • Interative Biology I and II
  • modular: teach based on case studies (Evolution of Sex; The Biology of Aging; Global Carbon Cycle; Bird Song, CHolera, Vitamin A)
  • inquiry-based
  • Inverted lecture
  • students read from Nature online textbook ad primary literature
  • short pre-lecture video; narrated poweroint slides
  • classtime used for group activities and higher-order thinking
  • iClicker quizzes at beginning of lecture
  • 220 students in two sections (95 in one, 115 inthe other) at eat 75-80% are firs-years; majors and non-majors; 10% withdraw; 75% move on to the next class
  • iClicker survey to assess predictors of studet success
  • Don’t predict success: plans to take other bio classes; plans after graduation;
  • Might predict success (varied between test years): intended major in bio, neuroscience, biochem; upperclassmen scored higher;  having taken college calculus or being enrolled in calulus
  • Did predict success (both years’ results): college chemistry experience (students who didn’t place into remedial chem); high school calculus experience; AP Bio credit made a difference, but not much
  • Changes;  more diverse, more first-generation students; much discussion about how to use this information to inform the sructure of the curriculum, when to teach Intro, etc.

Linking Biology and Chemistry courses through research on anticancer ruthenium complexes
Pamela Hanson and Laura Stultz (Birmingham Southern College)

  • Goals: rise to hallenge of Visin and change; introduce students to scientific method
  • Course focuses on KP1019: anticancer ruthenium complex
  • CH 149: Chemical Principles (20 students): 6 week-module on KP119; synthesize the molecule; journal club to dissect scientific literature on this molecule; UV-vis spec
  • HON 126 Cell and Molecular Biology (20 students) – yeast as a model system; draw chemical kinetics data from previous class; examine genetics and evolution; compare yeast and human cells to determine whether yeast is an appropriate model organism;
  • Assessment plan: concept mapping activity; common rubric for lab reports; CURE survey; external evaluator; publication rates of both faculty and students
  • Survey responses:  student feedback has been positive
  • every science student does a 2-term research project;students who had been through this sequence do betteri n their senior projects


  • managing student expectations; make learning goals explicit to students; tell them why you’re changing your teaching strategy; eventually upperclassmen will become your advocates because they will retain more, make connections and understand more deeply (even if they hated it at the time)
  • balance deep disciplinary knowledge with ability to make cross-disciplinary connections
  • empowering students to see themselves as experts draw on students’ experiences to enhance the class, make them share their knowledge with classmates

About Claudia Scholz

Higher education administrator in Charlottesville, VA specializing in research development.
This entry was posted in Teaching & Learning and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Please Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s