Undergrad research leads to new approach in microbiology class

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Research conducted by biology students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale exemplifies that famous quote, sometimes attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

The work done by Page McCaleb, senior in biological sciences, and others, has helped change the way SIU teaches an introductory biology class. Based on data analysis and observations, the class now includes “bioskills workshops,” which emphasize small groups engaging with their textbooks, collaborating on problems with peers and grappling with numbers, tables, charts and experiments.

McCaleb said students in the workshops better understand the importance of reading, the use of scientific vocabulary and collaborative problem-solving.

Their research doesn’t stop there. She and James Hillard, also a senior in biological sciences, are working under the supervision of Carey Krajewski, chair of the Department of Zoology and director of the biological sciences program, to compare the effectiveness of new teaching methods by looking at student learning gains.

“Our job is to create an environment and a set of experiences that allow them to gain the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to succeed,” she said.

An aspiring medical professional, McCaleb said having the opportunity to conduct real research as an undergraduate is powerful.

“I have had the chance to view my biological science interests from a unique vantage point: as an educator,” she said. “The experience I have gained through this opportunity is immensely valuable.”


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