2:30-5:00 p.m., April 19, 2005
Mary Gates Commons
The premise of this project is that students should have an appreciation of how our "textbook knowledge" in a given field is rooted in the original research literature of that field. But how can one expose students to this literature without subjecting them to excessive confusion or boredom?
To address this question, I have tried three different approaches in biology courses for biology and engineering majors: (1) instructor gives mini-lectures on "Great Moments in Biology"; (2) groups of students give oral presentations on important articles chosen from an instructor-compiled list; (3) students read assigned articles with the aid of instructor-prepared study guides and then participate in instructor-led group discussions. Advantages and disadvantages of each approach, as determined from instructor observations and student assessment surveys, will be discussed.
Overall, students appear to learn the most when forced to grapple with the articles themselves, provided that there is ample instructor assistance. Good results have been obtained with articles that are (a) short, (b) important, (c) well-written, (d) closely related to the rest of the course, and (e) annotated with study guides. Other instructors are invited to share their own strategies for making primary literature accessible and interesting to students.