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Use of Adapted Research Reports in Undergraduate Teaching

Nature of This Teaching Initiative

This initiaitive aims to provide professors with a novel learning activity that they can incorporate into their courses. This program is the initial step in creating a digital library of published peer-reviewed research reports that have been re-written so that they are more readable and understandable by early-college students. These reports can be used to complement traditional teaching in one of several ways (see below). The purpose is to make science-based courses more interesting, engaging, in-depth, and intellectually challenging.

Objectives

  1. Professors teaching science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) courses develop one or adapted research reports (ARR) that provide necessary content background that can develop student critical and creative thinking skills.
  2. Students will demonstrate their understanding of the roles of the various parts of a research report (introduction, methods, results, discussion) by critically and creatively analyzing each part of the paraphrased scientific paper and reporting their analysis.

Rationale

It is in every research professor's interest to make a least a minimal effort to help students appreciate research. This is not always accomplished well in courses designed to transmit STEM facts of science without the corresponding process of science. A proper collegiate education requires that all students understand and value the especially powerful way of knowing that scholarly research provides.

Lack of appreciation for research in the general college-educated population can contribute to insufficient support of research by those who control the education enterprise, such as Regents, state government officials, and legislators.

Scholars think that what is important to teach is how knowledge and wisdom are created. This contrasts sharply with the universal teaching practice of telling students about science and asking them to answer associated questions. Nor do common teaching practices emphasize the importance of asking the right questions.

The obvious place to learn about discovery process is by using research publications as case studies. Because authentic research reports are never written at a non-scientist level, our response is to re-write a scientific paper in age- and background-appropriate language, on a subject that should interest students.

Research publications are seldom written at the educational level of a beginning college student. By providing research reports that undergraduates can understand, we hope to show students the importance of scholarship.

It is not enough for teachers and students to know what the paper says. They need to know what it means. Therefore, we provide a set of scaffolding questions to help students in their analysis. We regard this scaffolding as the heart of an effective instructional strategy.

A final note: many professors may have to alter a teaching style of telling rather than guiding classroom discourse. The primary value of adapted journal article teaching is the emphasis on discussion and debate among students. For a professor to tell students what they should have thought defeats the main point of the exercise. This kind of learning activity provides strong and convenient incentive for professors to engage students intensely, beyond what is typical of the traditional "stand-and-deliver" teaching style.

Options for Applying Adapted Research Reports (ARR) in Teaching

  1. Honors courses or seminars in which the ARR constitute the main course content.
  2. Inserting ARR learning activities as homework after lectures have provided appropriate background.
  3. Use in blended-learning course formats.
  4. Substituting an ARR activity for term papers.
  5. Substituting an ARR activity for one or more lab or recitation activities.

Optional forms of implementation:

  1. A student analysis team approach involving SIMULATED PEER REVIEW.
  2. Ask students how they would address a given scientific issue, and then use the ARR to illustrate how it was actually addressed.
  3. Conduct a citation exercise, wherein students create citation maps of the papers that cited the ARRs and explain how the citing papers relate to each other.
  4. Integrate popular media reports on the topic of an ARR, both to pique student interest and to present basic concepts before an ARR learning activity.

Writing an ARR

  1. Should be accomplished by professors or graduate students.
  2. Adapting authors should interact with the editing team. A team member may write the adaptation under a professor's submission, if the topic is in life sciences.

For more information about participating in this program, contact W. R. Klemm (wklemm@cvm.tamu.edu).