Selected Pedagogy Talks


Monday selected talks session – 10:30a to 12:00p


Recurrent and varied in-class activities help students retain information in a lower division evolution, biodiversity, and ecology course

Jenny Link (1), Paul Narguizian (2), Erin Sanders (3), and Rachel Kennison (3)     

(1) Department of Medicine, Cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; (2) Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Los Angeles; (3) Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles   


When designing course curriculum, assessment of students’ prior knowledge is a critical step in informing teaching strategies for upcoming topics. Mastery of foundational knowledge can facilitate deeper in-class discussions, while fundamental misconceptions may impede learning gains. Evidence-based instructive practices aim to increase student learning gains, ideally over the long term. In this study, I targeted my teaching strategies to address prior knowledge by employing active learning techniques in a lower division biology course at a Hispanic-serving four-year university. To determine whether in-class active learning techniques can eliminate misconceptions and help students retain accurate information over the duration of the course, I incorporated different types of activities to address course topics and administered surveys intermittently throughout the 16-week semester to assess student knowledge. One-time in-class activities may help students recall information and reduce misconceptions for the upcoming exam, in the short term, but knowledge is not retained weeks later at the end of the semester. However, when students are interacting with the course material with recurrent, varied activities, there is evidence that longer term retention occurs. These results suggest that multiple exposures to important underlying concepts, via student-centered engagement and inclusive teaching practices, help students remember information for a longer period of time compared to a single in-class activity.  Based on the results of this study, I recommend instructors assess prior knowledge and use student-centered activities to address new topics. Because it is impractical to repeat every topic during a course term, instructors should focus student engagement on key learning outcomes that may be interleaved over several class sessions.

Introducing PCR in biology classes at a large urban community college district 

Zoe Thompson, Desiree Meyers

University of Michigan; Downriver Campus, Wayne County Community College District 


Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is one of the foundational techniques of modern biology. Students from both upper-and-lower-division classes can benefit from a hands-on PCR experiment. These experiments can also reinforce other important biological concepts, including plasmids, DNA replication, biotechnology applications and uses of genetically modified organisms.  We introduced two separate experiments involving PCR this year, one for an introductory biology class, and one for a microbiology class. These classes are at a community college that is part of a large, urban, multi-campus district. The introductory biology class used readily available food samples to identify & amplify sequences common in genetically modified foods. The microbiology class amplified the gene for green fluorescent protein. The equipment needed is much cheaper than it used to be, and many companies sell kits with all necessary (non-toxic) supplies and instructions, making now an excellent time to have your students do their own PCR. This experience highlights how the IRACDA program is able to connect current research expertise with community college teaching.

Building Conceptual Bridges Between CUREs and Traditional Course Content Using the Biology Card Sorting Task.

Jason Tan         

Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Union University   


In contrast to traditional lab apprentice models, CUREs (course-based undergraduate research experiences) like SEA-PHAGES (Science Education Alliance- Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics & Evolutionary Science) can provide authentic research experiences to a broader audience of students in a classroom setting.  Based upon first-year student feedback from students at Virginia Union University who had taken SEA-PHAGES lab, one obstacle to effectively implementing CUREs was unclear conceptual links between specific research questions related to phage biology and content covered in the accompanying General Biology lectures.  To address this gap in student learning, we used the Biology Card Sorting Task (BCST) that was previously established by Bisonnette et al (2017) to facilitate student conceptual organization of content knowledge based upon the “core concepts” in biological sciences outlined in Visions & Change (AAAS, 2011).  A modified version of the BCST was created to also include questions pertaining to phage biology, and implemented in a Molecular Biology course at Virginia Union University with Upper level students in Spring 2018 as a trial.  As a result of the participating in the BCST, students reported several favorable learning outcomes, including increases in (1) interdisciplinary thinking, (2) motivation to study course material as a result of “seeing the big picture” first, and (3) recognizing concepts involved in questions that dealt with unfamiliar content.  These data are consistent with the notion that more time should be spent in class explicitly focusing on relating course content to pre-defined “core concepts”, both in CURE and non-CURE courses.

Overcoming unconscious bias in classroom examples of scientists

Robert Zinna and Brittany F. Peterson

University of Arizona


While great strides have been made to increase diversity and inclusion of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, there still exists significant biases against women and people of color. With an increased recognition and efforts to combat these biases, they have moved from conscious biases to unconscious biases- that is, stereotypes and patterns of behavior held outside of conscious awareness. One area in which this bias can be seen is through the diversity of examples utilized during undergraduate education. Many biology textbooks and curricula have taken to utilizing real-world examples of practicing scientists to personalize the information they are presenting to students. However, in the textbooks we surveyed for introductory biology courses, the number of examples of women scientists is dramatically lower than men scientists, indicating an unconscious bias towards male scientists. We provide two resources to combat this problem. First, we provide a survey designed to track the number of examples of scientists presented in textbooks, broken down by gender, to help identify textbooks presenting more diverse examples of scientists. Secondly, we provide the beginning of a website containing historical and modern examples of women and POC scientists to help complement existing examples.

The Power of Phenomenology in Teaching & Learning 

Mays Imad, Shekeycha Ward, Jenna Wild         

Pima Community College         


Education is a cornerstone of modern society.  Strong educational institutions foster the development of skills citizens need to innovate and produce tangible results, bolstering economies and sustaining progress.  Physical innovation and economic progress are a fortunate byproduct of a system that has long been more concerned with students as holistic individuals and engaged citizens.  Holistic education reflects the interdependent real world and involves the learner’s body, thoughts, feelings, senses, and intuition in learning experiences that unify knowledge.  Such is the backbone behind colleges and universities that aim to create an idyllic sanctuary where students can explore and learn about themselves and the world.    A salient question remains: do students care about self-transformation and acquiring contemplative skills or, is their primary focus to become workforce competitive?  To find out, we turned to the students and asked them what they want from their education.  We surveyed over 800 students enrolled in first- or second-year college or university.  The purpose of the survey was to investigate what matters to the students.  The results revealed three overarching themes: i) Sense of Belonging, ii) Sense of Empowerment, and iii) Meaning-Centered.  The common denominator to the three themes is relationships.    In this workshop, participants will deliberate on the importance of cultivating healthy and  meaningful relationships with and among students.  Participants will explore evidence-informed strategies to (1) investigate and align what students expect from their education with faculty perception; (2) transform the classroom into a sanctuary where all students can explore life, the inner and the outer.

Tuesday selected talks session – 10:30a to 12:00p


The Pipeline CURE: a curriculum-wide strategy to introduce all biology majors to authentic research

Brandon Carpenter (1), Teresa Lee (1), Onur Birol (1), Karen Schmeichel (2), and David Katz (1)

1- Emory University, 2- Oglethorpe University  


Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) improve student learning, engagement, and retention in STEM disciplines. Most CUREs are implemented during a single semester, and thus may be limited with respect to potential benefits among undergraduate cohorts. We reasoned that embedding a curriculum-wide CURE would allow students to develop concept sophistication and confidence in laboratory skills in a deliberately developmental manner. Such an approach is particularly feasible at small teaching-focused colleges where students tend to take more than one course with an instructor while completing a major. Moreover, if such a CURE was developed in collaboration with an interested investigator performing R1-level research, it could provide an economical means to explore “high risk” ideas that could spin-off into fruitful projects for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. In our so-called “Pipeline” CURE, students at Oglethorpe University are incrementally trained, over the course of a four-year curriculum, through laboratory activities themed around an Emory University R1 investigator’s laboratory focus: cell fate specification during C. elegans development.  Here, we will present our collaborative model as a curricular framework and discuss how we are implementing and assessing our “Pipeline” CURE.

UAB-CORD (Community OutReach Development) and GEAR UP Birmingham (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) Collaboration  

Robert M. Akscyn, Melike Dizbay-Onat, Milad Mijad, Michael Wyss       

University of Alabama at Birmingham   


GEAR UP is a competitive funding mechanism from the U.S. Department of Education that increases the number of low-income, minority students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. In 2014, the Birmingham City School (BCS) district, located in north central Alabama, was awarded a $19.6 million GEAR UP grant. In addition to UAB-CORD programs, GEAR UP students receive tutoring, mentoring, advising from counselors, summer academic enrichment and financial literacy skills. The current GEAR UP Birmingham cohort consists of 3,560 students, who will be followed for seven years. CORD offers K-12 students and teachers in-depth, hands-on, inquiry-based science experiences both during the school year and summer programs. The partnership between UAB-CORD and GEAR UP Birmingham provides lab experiences designed to expose students to a wide breadth of STEM fields. Current subjects include various disciplines of engineering, computer science, mathematics, physics and biology. These subjects are taught over a three-day hands on lab experience at all BSC middle and high schools. Efficacy is evaluated through pre-and post-assessments to determine if students have gained a better understanding of the presented material. In addition, these assessments provide feedback of how GEAR UP Birmingham is affecting students’ attitudes toward higher education. Teacher feedback was also gathered in hopes of improving the CORD GEAR UP Birmingham partnership.

Obstacles for first-generation low-income students and institutional strategies to improve their success and retention

Nathan T. Fried

University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University Camden


Socioeconomic status is a significant indicator for college retention and advancement to professional degrees. For first-generation-low-income (FGLI) students, many financial/non-financial obstacles exist. Most intuitive are the financial obstacles, such as supporting family, lack of familial financial support, and lack of pre-college resources (tutoring/SAT prep). This is particularly true in the biomedical sciences due to lengthy training periods that feature lower pay and a lack of standard employee benefits, relative to their non-academic peers. Further, many FGLI students can’t volunteer in research labs to become competitive for graduate programs because they often work part-time jobs to “make-ends-meet”.  Non-financial obstacles also exist, such as imposter syndrome, survivor’s guilt, family achievement gap, loss of belonging at home while climbing socioeconomic ladder, and lack of knowledge of the academic rules/structures for success. The intersectionality of overlapping identities (gender, race, sexuality, and disability) further compounds this. These challenges often continue throughout the trainee’s career. In this presentation, I will address these challenges and discuss ways in which the IRACDA host-institution, University of Pennsylvania, and IRACDA partner-institution, Rutgers University-Camden, are together addressing these obstacles at the high school and undergraduate-level to improve FGLI student sense of belonging, retention, and outcomes. This includes PENN-FIRST (FGLI office with programming for FGLI students and Faculty education on FGLI issues), Bridging-the-Gap (tuition-free education at Rutgers-Camden to FGLI students), and the pursuit of NIH funding mechanisms between the two universities that provides underrepresented undergraduates with research-stipends. These programs will set the stage for a more equitable future in the biomedical sciences.

The Association for Biology Laboratory Education: A Resource for Vision and Change

Lawrence Blumer

Morehouse College


For the past 40 years, the Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE) has fostered the types reform in teaching and learning recommended in the V&C Report.  Our organization fosters change by holding an annual 3-day workshop-based conference at which faculty present peer-reviewed hands-on innovations in biology laboratory instruction.  Participants in these workshops leave knowing how to implement new laboratory activities because they are the students in each workshop and they are provided with all the materials needed to successfully implement the new activity at their home institution.  ABLE maintains an on-line archive of laboratory activities

Ten-by-Ten: Ten Lessons Learned Delivering a Ten-Part Course that Prepares IRACDA Scholars for a Faculty Career.     

John Boothroyd, Robin Sugiura

Stanford University      


IRACDA Scholars face many challenges as they progress through their training and move on to faculty jobs. To help them with this exciting journey, we created a 10-week course that embraces three major stages: 1) self-assessment and deciding on the type of faculty job that fits each Scholar best; 2) preparing, applying, interviewing and negotiating for that job; 3) learning the skills needed to do the job effectively and stress-free. The latter includes topics ranging from time management to simple personnel management (a subject most academics seem to shy away from). To help our Scholars network, we opened this up to all postdocs and senior grad students at Stanford and have had over 100 participants every spring. I’ll share some of the approaches we’ve found to work best as well as some of the things that haven’t worked so well!