Principles of Design for a Research-Centered Biology Curriculum

Itzick Vatnick*; Bruce Grant: Principles of Design for a Research-Centered Biology Curriculum

In the last decade, undergraduate science education has undergone a quiet revolution emphasizing opportunities for student-directed original inquiry as the curriculum. Opportunities to conduct genuine investigations are important because they teach students how science is actually done and thereby they learn by doing it. However, entering students lack sufficient confidence, organizational skills, and content background for open-ended student-directed investigations as freshmen. Our solution is to design a program that incrementally introduces more open-ended inquiries. The initial task in the ladder is to infuse research inquiry experiences in the laboratory portions of our freshmen and sophomore required courses that will at least enable students to understand the process of knowledge construction. In addition we hope that these experiences will stimulate students to become involved in substantive research collaborations with faculty as early as the freshmen or sophomore years. Our upper division curriculum allows students to concentrate on their areas of interest and is flexible enough to allow students to conduct research projects in addition to course work. We discuss some of the key issues (e.g. pedagogies, facilities, and the reward system) that arise while transforming traditional curricula to a research- rich curriculum.

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