Friday, December 11, 2015

More Than a Literature Review: Final Year Projects for Bioscience Students

Final year projects are very much the capstone experience of the undergraduate bioscience experience. Yet many academics cling doggedly to the belief that they are training Mini-Mes and that projects are only an entry into PhD programmes. But alternative (non-laboratory) types of project remain very much second class options. This is because, in my personal opinion which does not represent that of my employer, activity is valued over thinking. And in the weird world we live in, scholarship does not count as activity. But the vast and increasing majority of our graduates will never don a lab coat or set foot in a laboratory again after they graduate. They will, however, be required to think. And to make judgements and have opinions. In other words, we live in hope that our graduates will live their lives in a scholarly way. The least we can do is to try to train them to do that.

Julia Lodge (2015) More Than a Literature Review: An Alternative Final Year Project for Bioscience Students. Education in Practice, Vol. 2 No. 1.
With increasing pressures on staff time and increased diversity in the student population it is important that universities explore different ways of providing final year projects. This case study describes a successful format developed in the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham. The project consists of a literature review followed by an in-depth critical analysis of five key papers and the subsequent development of a research proposal. In addition to written reports and an oral presentation students are asked to write both a lay and a technical abstract for their research proposal. This challenges the student to explain the importance and also the scientific approach to different audiences. The analysis of five key papers has been found to be an excellent tool to encourage a deep understanding and critical analysis of research papers and that the skills demonstrated in this section are distinct from those demonstrated in a traditional literature review. The research proposal allows students to develop many of the skills usually associated with a practical project including identification of gaps in current knowledge and developing a hypothesis. Overall this format allows students not choosing a lab or field based final year project to apply the skills and knowledge accumulated during their degree in a discipline related context and despite not having a practical element it remains true to its roots in experimental science.

Education in Practice Education in Practice - December 2015

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Assessing Teamwork

Teamwork I'm in the middle of a big team work evaluation right now, so the title of this paper immediately grabbed my attention. The Team-Q tool described looks very good, although sadly it remains the case that the procedures involved are still too cumbersome for easy widespread adoption.

Oh, and then there's the whole business of student "satisfaction". Team assessment? Students hate it.

Assessing teamwork in undergraduate education: a measurement tool to evaluate individual teamwork skills. (2015): Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, doi: 10.1080/02602938.2015.1116497
Effective teamwork skills are essential for success in an increasingly team-based workplace. However, research suggests that there is often confusion concerning how teamwork is measured and assessed, making it difficult to develop these skills in undergraduate curricula. The goal of the present study was to develop a sustainable tool for assessing individual teamwork skills, with the intention of refining and measuring these skills over time. The TeamUp rubric was selected as the preliminary standardised measure of teamwork and tested in a second year undergraduate course (Phase One). Although the tool displayed acceptable psychometric properties, there was concern that it was too lengthy, compromising student completion. This prompted refinement and modification leading to the development of the Team-Q, which was again tested in the same undergraduate course (Phase Two). The new tool had high internal consistency, as well as conceptual similarity to other measures of teamwork. Estimates of inter-rater reliability were within a satisfactory range, although it was determined that logistical issues limited the feasibility of external evaluations. Preliminary evidence suggests that teamwork skills improve over time when taught and assessed, providing support for the continued application of the Team-Q as a tool for developing teamwork skills in undergraduate education.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Audio feedback - let's not oversell it

Audio It's nice to read a paper which doesn't make wildly unsubstantiated claims which it then fails to justify.

Investigating expectations and experiences of audio and written assignment feedback in first-year undergraduate students. Teaching in Higher Education, 27 Nov 2015. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2015.1115969
Previous research suggests that audio feedback may be an important mechanism for facilitating effective and timely assignment feedback. The present study examined expectations and experiences of audio and written feedback provided through turnitin for iPad® from students within the same cohort and assignment. The results showed that although initially sceptical of audio compared to written feedback, there were no significant differences in students' experiences of audio and written feedback. Students' performance on the assignment was not associated with their experiences of audio feedback but first-class performing students ( > 70%) had more positive experiences of written feedback than those who received an upper second-class grade (60–69%). In general, the results imply that audio feedback provided through turnitin for iPad® is a viable alternative to written feedback. The findings are discussed in relation to past research findings.