Poor mental health amongst graduate and professional students in 2020

by Kelsey Jesser

Stressed out studentGetting a graduate or professional degree is stressful. This seemingly obvious statement is backed up by a substantial body of research demonstrating that graduate and medical students, particularly those from underrepresented groups, have higher than average rates of depression and anxiety. Graduate and professional students (myself included!) can experience long work hours, high pressure to produce and perform, influential and sometimes unsupportive relationships with mentors, a precarious financial situation, and uncertain future employment. These and other challenges that contribute to poor mental health outcomes were exacerbated in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a dramatic increase in social isolation and incidences of anti-Asian violence. The stress and fear surrounding the emergence of a novel virus was exacerbated by police and vigilante killings of Black Americans and the increasing awareness and protests around the persistent racial violence in the United States. Continue reading

The PULSE Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Rubric

by Anzela Niraula

While the drive to address and tackle the structural barriers facing DEI is palpable in higher education, it is often difficult to know where and how to approach this enormous topic. The PULSE DEI rubric, developed by Brancaccio-Taras and colleagues, seeks to specifically empower departments to advance DEI at their institutions. This rubric is the sixth and newest addition to PULSE’s preexisting rubrics from which it derives its framework.

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Rethinking the Share in the Think-Pair-Share

By Joseph Groom

Cooper KM, Schinske JN, and Tanner KD. Reconsidering the Share of a Think-Pair-Share: Emerging Limitations, Alternatives, and Opportunities for Research. CBE Life Sciences Education (2021). Vol. 20: fe1. doi: 10.1187/cbe.20-08-0200

Random Call Anxiety

In their article in the March 2021 issue of CBE Life Sciences Education, K.M. Cooper et al. use recent studies to make a case for altering or abolishing the “share” portion of the widely used Think-Pair-Share method. The Think-Pair-Share is a popular active learning technique that allows students to come up with ideas on their own, bounce those ideas off of a classmate, hear a variety of student voices, and refine and articulate their own ideas by sharing them with the whole class. Cooper et al. succinctly explain how the “share” portion in particular can lead to inequities in learning, how certain assumptions about benefits of the “share” are not necessarily true, and how to effectively modify or remove the “share”.

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Come One, Come All: Establishing Equity through Structured Elements to Engage All Students

by Bob Kao, Assistant Professor in Biology
Heritage University, Toppenish, WA, homeland of Yakama Nation

Summary Review:

In their recently published CourseSource article Structuring Courses for Equity, Hocker and Vandergrift (2019) provide a guide describing four elements that can increase equity in an introductory non-science majors general education biology courses (100 students), as well as upper division majors human physiology (350 students). These four structured elements include:

  1. Assignments with Transparent Design. Increasing structure of in-class worksheets, student presentations, or science writing assignments helps both faculty and students to enable clear expectations and purpose of each assignment. Furthermore, assignment rubrics help to assess growth of student learning during the course and improve course retention.
  2. Class Time to Engage All Students. Inclusive teaching approaches help to engage all students and develop students’ sense of belonging and community. For example, Schinske and colleagues (2016) developed the Scientist Spotlight to incorporate the scientist’s experiences as a role model for students to enhance science identity, community, as well as equity and diversity in STEM pathways.
  3. Out-of-Class Learning. Learning experiences outside of class discussions can help cultivate collaborative learning communities to enrich through pre-class assignments and quizzes. For example, quizzes can also be used as formative feedback to allow students to practice and recall concepts in biology.
  4. Assessments and Feedback. These assessment tools help instructors to identify and clarify students’ misconceptions on biology concepts through written and verbal feedback for all students. For example, clicker questions in a large course over 100 students could be used to assess students’ grasp of biology concepts. On the other hand, summative assessments, such as cumulative exams, provide an avenue for students’ ability to make predictions, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. Structured, formative assessments are aligned with course and lab performance goals and learning objectives, and help foster depth of learning.

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