In the wake of successful summer workshops last year to train science faculty in the C.R.E.A.T.E. (Consider, Read, Elucidate the hypotheses, Analyze and interpret the data, and Think of the next Experiment) method of teaching, applications increased 40 percent for this year’s program. Hobart and William Smith Colleges will host two C.R.E.A.T.E. workshops this month – Sunday, June 9, through Friday, June 14, and Sunday, June 16, through Friday, June 21. The two, week-long workshops will bring together faculty from two and four year institutions from 25 different states.
C.R.E.A.T.E. is a new approach that uses intensive analysis of primary literature coupled with e-mail interviews of paper authors to demystify and humanize research science for undergraduates. The goal is to use the real language of science-the journal article-as an inroad to understanding who does science, how, and why?
HWS Associate Professor of Biology Kristy Kenyon is co-director of the workshops and the co-principal investigator for this National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported project along with City College of New York Professor of Biology Sally Hoskins. The strategy has already proven effective at City College of New York where it was developed and piloted by Hoskins, as well as at colleges and universities in the New York area. Kenyon and Hoskins will be presenting the outcomes of this month’s workshops at an American Association for the Advancement of Science Vision and Change meeting in Washington, D.C., in August.
In the past academic year, nine of the 47 participants of the 2012 C.R.E.A.T.E. workshop at the Colleges joined the research study of Hoskins and Kenyon by implementing C.R.E.A.T.E. in biology, psychology or chemistry courses on their home campuses. Four of the implementations were at community colleges. This C.R.E.A.T.E. teaching was observed three times by an outside evaluator. In addition, Kenyon and Hoskins evaluated student performance with a series of anonymous pre and post-course assessments. The assessment tools target potential changes in areas including students’ confidence in reading/analysis abilities, their views of the nature of science, and their critical thinking ability. Data analysis is ongoing.
“Initial examination of pre/post course survey of students’ attitudes and beliefs indicates that students on both two and four year campuses made gains in attitude/ability categories and in some aspects of their epistemological views about science, for example in their sense of whether science is creative,” explains Kenyon. “Faculty implementers were uniformly enthusiastic about the teaching strategy noting, for example, ‘This is the most fun I’ve ever had teaching Intro,’ or ‘I can tell the students are learning so much more.'”
As a complement to teaching based on textbooks, which tend to oversimplify the research process, C.R.E.A.T.E. teaching focuses on authentic published work-peer reviewed journal articles-with students reading either series of papers produced sequentially from individual labs or series of papers from different labs focused on a single line of research. Students use novel or adapted pedagogical tools to analyze each part of a scientific study, examining the hypotheses underlying experimental paradigms and data from different perspectives. In a final step, students connect directly with the scientists who authored each article. Responses from project heads, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students provide rich insights into the scientific process and the diversity of individuals who choose research careers.
C.R.E.A.T.E. serves to demystify science research careers, open such options to students by providing novel insights, and overall provide a new understanding of and respect for the accomplishments of science research among all students, including those not likely to pursue research careers.
Workshop participants will learn C.R.E.A.T.E. approaches that move beyond a lecture-based format by using primary literature to integrate student understanding of content within the context of the research process. By learning to transform the classroom environment, participants will learn how to challenge students to think and act as scientists. Workshop participants will be prepared to introduce C.R.E.A.T.E. either a stand-alone course or adapt the strategy within an existing framework (e.g. teaching a senior capstone course using C.R.E.A.T.E.).
In effectively using the C.R.E.A.T.E. method, faculty will enable students to experience authentic processes of science, in particular discussion/debate about experimental data and their interpretation (including “grey areas”), recognize the creativity and open-ended nature of research, and see the diversity of people who undertake research careers (i.e. not just the genius/geeks of popular culture).
Each workshop will run Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Friday 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Further details can be found at www.teachcreate.org