Online annotation tools that help students discuss readings

By Sarita Y. Shukla and Rebecca M. Price

Originally published in 2018 on the UWB Digital Learning and Innovation Blog

Engaging with course materials is the quintessential ingredient for student success. We want our students to engage deeply with our reading assignments by taking notes, asking questions, and discussing the text with their peers. Web annotation tools are a new way to promote this kind of student engagement. They offer a way for students to chisel out their intellectual interests while learning deeply and growing mentally.

We’ve had the opportunity to play with two platforms for web annotations, and Perusall. Here are the instructions/videos for instructors and students on how to install and use these platforms:

The table below briefly compares and Perusall. After the table, we discuss our experiences with each platform.

We thank our colleagues, Jane Van Galen, Todd Conaway, and Eva Ma for encouraging and supporting our exploration of these platforms.

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Research and Biology Education

Originally published in 2018 on the UWB Digital Learning and Innovation Blog.

by Becca Price

I keep reinventing myself. It’s one of the aspects of academia that I’ve enjoyed the most. I started studying the way different species of sea slugs were related, then I started looking at the history of sea shells that evolved 100s of millions of years ago. And when I came to UWB 12 years ago, I realized how much we, as a community of educators, can do to improve the way students are learning science. My interest in science education—especially around biology—was born. That took me, in turn, to teaching new PhDs how to teach college science.

My interests have broadened again, now with the goal to welcome more people into the vibrant research on biology education. The leading journal in our field, CBE-Life Sciences Education, started a new feature called “Anatomy of an Education Study” that introduces the research methods common within the field. I, along with Clark Coffman from the Iowa State University, are annotating the articles in this feature with five lenses in mind—a format inspired by the lenses that Science uses in their annotations[1]. We highlight the background, pointing readers to classic texts and debates; we offer succinct definitions of the jargon that inevitably creeps into a research area; we explicate the research methods and design that the authors use, annotations that help an audience more used to biological research than the social science of how students learn biology; we highlight the instructional implications of the work that the authors discuss; and, lastly, we offering writing tips, to orient readers to the conventions of articles in this field.

The first two sets of annotations that Clark and I wrote focus on different qualitative methods, in one case for testing whether a survey measures what is intended, and the other for using the knowledge of experienced instructors and researchers to construct a list of teaching strategies that unpack the idea of scientific teaching.

Science education research has changed a lot in the last decade, as researchers become more comfortable navigating the many methods used in this interdisciplinary field. I hope that the “Anatomy of an Education Study” might help you become familiar with the tool…and maybe, you are developing a comparable tool in another field that can orient me the next time I reinvent myself.

  1. Learning Lens by Science in the Classroom is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.


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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We Built an Active Learning Class to Teach Students How to Critically Evaluate Health Claims. Did it Work?

by Jeremy Whitson

Dr. Jeremy Whitson at the UW Teaching and Learning Symposium.

The Fall of 2017 was a tumultuous time for public discourse around science in the US. Phrases like “fake news” and “alternative facts” entered the mainstream vernacular as an administration that cared little for truth, accuracy, or ethics took control of the White House. Science deniers began heading key agencies, gag rules were put into place, and researchers across the country feared how their already diminishing funding might be reallocated. Meanwhile, the internet, once conceptualized as the ultimate tool for disseminating information, was proving itself to be the ultimate tool for misinformation. Long dormant diseases began making a resurgence and commercial brands were using the public’s ignorance to push misleading, or even straight up dangerous, products like raw water, anti-aging creams, and juice cleanses.  Continue reading

STEP Writing Retreat

Dear STEP Fellows,

Are you interested in publishing in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning? If so, we encourage you to join us for the first STEP writing retreat, which will be held Friday, August 3rd at UW Bothell from 9am – 3pm in UW2-141  [room 141 in Commons Hall (UW2)].

This will be an opportunity to write reviews or activities that you’ve prepared to submit to peer-reviewed journals like CourseSource or American Biology Teacher (such as Tips, Tricks, and Techniques, e.g., Price 2013). We will also explore other venues, such as Science in the Classroom and our very own STEP blog. You may also want to consider Life Science Teaching Resource, which includes a pretty wide-based and inclusive collection of resources that covers different disciplines of the biological sciences. It also has a guest blog associated with it. National Science Teachers Association offers a variety of resources on excellence on teaching and learning, including informal science education. It has resources for different age groups from K-12  through college level. Human Anatomy and Physiology has other outlets. Two more peer-reviewed resources are Advances in Physiology Education and the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education.

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Managing anxiety in active learning classrooms

by Trisha Sippel

When I was a student, you could usually find me in the middle or back of the classroom. I would be just close enough to see the board, but far enough to inconspicuously blend in with the crowd and avoid being noticed. My early school days were spent hiding out this way while praying my teacher wouldn’t call on me, my face turning red-hot if they did. College was less anxiety producing. Sure, I was getting older and becoming more confident, but mostly I didn’t have to worry as much about being called on in class. Typically, the professor would stand at the front of a large lecture hall without much interaction with the students.

As active learning has gained traction in science classrooms, I have thought a lot about the possible anxiety of some of my students, especially those who are less comfortable speaking up in class, as I was. I could imagine being intimidated by and resistant to the amount of interaction and group work involved with active learning. After implementing these techniques in my own classroom, through the Science Teaching Experience for Postdocs (STEP) program, I clearly see the advantages of this type of learning compared to passive lecturing. Now, I wonder how we can make the active learning classroom a more comfortable place for all of our students.

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UW Teaching and Learning Symposium 2018

STEP was well-represented at the UW Teaching and Learning Symposium on April 17th, 2018. STEP alumni Dr. Eva Ma, Dr. Sarah Morgan, Dr. Suzzanne Mcdermott, Dr. Amy Stone, and Dr. Angela Katsuyama all presented posters about the interactive activities that they had developed with STEP Forward and/or the Pacific Science Center’s Science Communication Fellowship, while Dr. Liz Kwan presented a module that she and her fellow co-instructors had developed for their STEP course. STEP mentors Dr. Salwa Al-Noori, Dr. Becca Price, and Dr. Eva Ma along with Elizabeth McCullough from the Pacific Science Center also presented a poster on our STEP Forward program’s partnership with the Pacific Science Center.

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