Field of Science

TGIF Big Time - Introducting students to research

Today is the last class day of the semester; how appropriate it's a Friday.  It always seems to work out that way.  One of my classes was an introduction to research, a seminar with the goal of introducing 2nd year biology majors to real science, a new class.  Firstly 18 students is too many for a good seminar because it lets the passive students be passive no matter how hard you try to force class participation.  So the class dealt with misconceptions and definitions of science, and things like science denialism, opinions versus reality, and science news and the media.  When asked about their opinion on fracking, and what they'd heard and where they heard it and how their opinion was formed, none of the 18 knew what fracking was.  One fellow who opposed it said, "Fracking, it just sounds wrong."  Does that make you feel good about the future of our country and world?  How many earned extra credit for attending a public forum on fracking held immediately adjacent to campus two days later?  None.  They had a hard time wrapping their brains around denialism.  "How can you deny facts," asked one?  Indeed.  However, some of them did a quite credible job of critiquing research posters and research seminars often showing some real insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the presentations.  Wonder if my colleagues will want to read them?  They did a good job when conducting an interrogative interview of a professional scientist, yours truly, TPP.  They really liked looking for cartoons that made fun of science, and explaining why they were funny.  But best of all, most of the class now thinks getting involved in research while an undergrad is a good idea.  They have a better idea of what types of research their "teachers" do, and what it takes to be a successful researcher.  On the whole the class was pretty satisfactory, pretty successful, from the instructor's perspective.  Now to see what the students think.

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