Learning-through-research @ university

September 21, 2017 in #research #skills #university #courses

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Most universities in the world are research universities, where teachers not only teach, but also perform research in university labs. Those labs are used for training students - mostly through pre-defined and well-established practicals which fit the course descriptions the students are taking. At some point, the students would be required to perform research by themselves. Usually, this would happen in the master level, with an internship that would grant the students a title of Master of research. But usually, these projects would be well defined as well, and under supervision of senior researchers. Finally, some of those students with Master degrees would decide to pursue a PhD - a long professional experience in academic world, where they would be expected to have research skills.

But did those students ever receive training in research? Has there been any standard set on which level of skills a Master of research should acquire?

Since 2012 I have been working on developing a series of learning-through-research courses that teach university students how to do research and serve as a sandbox to practice research skills. These courses scaffold the development of scientific thinking and research project management, allowing each student to gradually mature into an independent critical thinker.

Learning through research courses I developed and taught at the Bachelor program Frontiers in Life Science offer a unique opportunity to develop real-life research skills as early as in the first few weeks of the undergraduate studies. Research skills are very diverse, ranging from article analysis and experimental design, to creativity and leadership skills. It is therefore crucial to introduce them in a systematic way during the undergraduate studies, and to build on top of previously introduced skills to reach mastery.

My learning-through-research courses

Scientific methodology L1S1 - UE 1.6
Topic: interdisciplinary research
Skills: reading articles (Science in the classroom), experiment vs. model (ethical aspects), blogging skills, science communication (interdiscipinary visit to a museum (topic defined depending on the current exhibitions), lab notebook)
Project type: individual, binome and group
Time schedule: 30-40h, reading articles (6h x 3 sessions), classical experiment in the lab (1 week), museum visit and discussion (1 day)
Semester: S1

Thermal wars L1S2 - UE 2.8
Topic: thermodynamics in living systems
Skills: creativity, experiment vs. model, making interdisciplinary connections, understanding time and space scales, reading articles, presentation skills, blogging skills
Project type: group
Time schedule: 30-40h - 1 intensive week
Semester: S2

LabSprint L2S3 - UE 3.0.2
Topic: microbiology, environmental microbiology, ecosystem and interactions between organisms
Skills: creativity, team building skills, bibliography, peer-to-peer feedback, experimental design, data analysis, report writing skills, presentation skills, blogging skills
Project type: individual (with small team feedback sessions)
Time schedule: 40-50h in Petnica Science Center (2 intensive weeks in the beginning of the 2nd year)
Semester: S3

Biosensors L2S4 - UE 4.7
Topic: sensing the environment, from bacteria and plants, to humans
Skills: creativity, team building skills, bibliography, peer-to-peer feedback, making interdisciplinary connections, experimental design, data analysis, report writing skills, presentation skills, blogging skills
Project type: group
Time schedule: 70-100h - 3-4 intensive weeks, 3 projects
Semester: S4

SeaSprint (optional course)
Topic: marine biology
Skills: creativity, team building skills, bibliography, peer-to-peer feedback, making interdisciplinary connections, observations and experiments in the field, data analysis, documentation skills, presentation skills, blogging skills, science and society,
Project type: group
Time schedule: 50-60h in Croatia - 2 intensive weeks, 1 project
Semester: S5/S6

Science communication/evolution (IFDV international semester)
Topic: science communication, evolution
Skills: making interdisciplinary connections, presentation skills, blogging skills, science and society, communication skills
Project type: individual
Time schedule: 30h
Semester: S5/S6

Diversity of microbes (IFDV international semester)
Topic: microbiology
Skills: creativity, team building skills, bibliography, peer-to-peer feedback, experimental design, data analysis, report writing skills, presentation skills, blogging skills
Project type: group
Time schedule: 40-50h, including intensive project week
Semester: S5/S6

To learn more about my courses:

LearningThruResearch blog where my students write about their research projects

LabSprintFDV Twitter to find out more about introductory lab courses, including LabSprint and Diversity of microbes courses

BiosensorsFDV Twitter to find out more about the student projects related to sensing the environment, including projects conducted in the Thermal wars and Biosensors courses

#IFDV hashtag to find out about the International semester of Bachelor program FDV, and Science communication and Diversity of microbes courses

SeaLab1.0 aims to imagine, design, create and test low-cost research methods and tools for marine biology research, to be used in SeaSprint course and in participative/citizen science research

To start teaching these courses in your program:

Contact me by email

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