Vasseur, Liette .
Getting students involved in biostatistics through projects: allowing students to build on their knowledge.
Biostatistics can be a difficult subject matter to teach to any undergraduate biology students. While the traditional lectures may help students understand the theory, the chellenge is to move from concepts to practice. Over the past years, my experience teaching biostatistics show that students find difficult to translate mathematics and computer outputs into biological interpretations. The traditional course delivery in biology (plant and animal) leads students to memorize information and experiential learning is limited to superficial and directive knowledge. Cognitive research argues that students learn best when they can actively construct understanding and solve problems. In the past two years, I have used a constructivist approach to my biostatistics class using a reflective and practical approach in lectures and a real-world problem solving projects in the lab. I approach biostatistics from the first initial steps of the scientific method. By encouraging students to reflect on a possible project that they select, they define a question, formulate hypotheses, and develop a proposal. During the semester, the lectures and the labs are tightly coupled so that what is learned in lectures in terms of theory and reflection with real world examples is matched with their own project which they must develop during the semester. Because the course is given in the winter, most of the projects that the students can do are mainly in plant biology (going from algal growth and seed germination to root elongation and chlorophyll concentration analyses). Once their proposals approved, students must acquire their own data through the experimental design and sampling method that they have decided to use. They then have to enter data on computer and go through the various statistical tests over the course of the semester. At the end they prepare a manuscript in the scientific format as well as present to the class like in a conference. Through this, students can actively appreciate the complete steps that are needed to complete a scientific project or study and better understand the role, the type and the appropriateness of statistical tests that they may encounter in their future work. Examples on which students reflects in class are taken not only from scientific research papers but also from industries, non-governmental organizations, world organizations and governmental agencies. Such an approach may be highly demanding on the professor but the reward comes from student engagement and their capacity in manipulating the abstract concepts of data analysis.
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1 - Brock University, Biological Sciences, 500 Glenridge Ave, St Catharines, ON, L2S3A1, Canada
Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Location: Delaware A/Hyatt
Date: Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
Time: 9:30 AM