skip to main content


Title: The Impact of Field Courses on Undergraduate Knowledge, Affect, Behavior, and Skills: A Scoping Review
Abstract Field courses provide transformative learning experiences that support success and improve persistence for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics majors. But field courses have not increased proportionally with the number of students in the natural sciences. We conducted a scoping review to investigate the factors influencing undergraduate participation in and the outcomes from field courses in the United States. Our search yielded 61 articles, from which we classified the knowledge, affect, behavior, and skill-based outcomes resulting from field course participation. We found consistent reporting on course design but little reporting on demographics, which limits our understanding of who takes field courses. Cost was the most commonly reported barrier to student participation, and knowledge gains were the most commonly reported outcome. This scoping review underscores the need for more rigorous and evidence-based investigations of student outcomes in field courses. Understanding how field courses support or hinder student engagement is necessary to make them more accessible to all students.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1909602
NSF-PAR ID:
10414237
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
BioScience
Volume:
72
Issue:
10
ISSN:
0006-3568
Page Range / eLocation ID:
1007 to 1017
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. This theory paper focuses on understanding how mastery learning has been implemented in undergraduate engineering courses through a systematic review. Academic environments that promote learning, mastery, and continuous improvement rather than inherent ability can promote performance and persistence. Scholarship has argued that students could achieve mastery of the course material when the time available to master concepts and the quality of instruction was made appropriate to each learner. Increasing time to demonstrate mastery involves a course structure that allows for repeated attempts on learning assessments (i.e., homework, quizzes, projects, exams). Students are not penalized for failed attempts but are rewarded for achieving eventual mastery. The mastery learning approach recognizes that mastery is not always achieved on first attempts and learning from mistakes and persisting is fundamental to how we learn. This singular concept has potentially the greatest impact on students’ mindset in terms of their belief they can be successful in learning the course material. A significant amount of attention has been given to mastery learning courses in secondary education and mastery learning has shown an exceptionally positive effect on student achievement. However, implementing mastery learning in an undergraduate course can be a cumbersome process as it requires instructors to significantly restructure their assignments and exams, evaluation process, and grading practices. In light of these challenges, it is unclear the extent to which mastery learning has been implemented in undergraduate engineering courses or if similar positive effects can be found. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review to elucidate, how in the U.S., (1) has mastery learning been implemented in undergraduate engineering courses from 1990 to the present time and (2) the student outcomes that have been reported for these implementations. Using the systematic process outlined by Borrego et al. (2014), we surveyed seven databases and a total of 584 articles consisting of engineering and non-engineering courses were identified. We focused our review on studies that were centered on applying the mastery learning pedagogical method in undergraduate engineering courses. All peer-reviewed and practitioner articles and conference proceedings that were within our scope were included in the synthetization phase of the review. Most articles were excluded based on our inclusion and exclusion criteria. Twelve studies focused on applying mastery learning to undergraduate engineering courses. The mastery learning method was mainly applied on midterm exams, few studies used the method on homework assignments, and no study applied the method to the final exam. Students reported an increase in learning as a result of applying mastery learning. Several studies reported that students’ grades in a traditional final exam were not affected by mastery learning. Students’ self-reported evaluation of the course suggests that students prefer the mastery learning approach over traditional methods. Although a clear consensus on the effect of the mastery learning approach could not be achieved as each article applied different survey instruments to capture students’ perspectives. Responses to open-ended questions have mixed results. Two studies report more positive student comments on opened-ended questions, while one study report receiving more negative comments regarding the implementation of the mastery learning method. In the full paper we more thoroughly describe the ways in which mastery learning was implemented along with clear examples of common and divergent student outcomes across the twelve studies. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    While the traditional goals of undergraduate courses are often content-based, the development of career-readiness and professional skills, such as those listed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, are increasingly recognized as important learning outcomes. As Mammalogy courses embrace more hands-on learning activities, they provide the opportunity to embed these professional skills, which are directly relevant to many careers in science. For example, many Mammalogy courses may include projects that incorporate experimental design and data analysis that focus on quantitative literacy, in addition to technical skills including small mammal trapping and handling, or preparing voucher specimens, that focus on problem-solving and attention to detail. Here, we review the professional skills that can be developed through a Mammalogy course and evaluate evidence-based approaches to build those skills into our courses. One approach, using Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs), provides opportunities for both student skill development and instructor research program development. Because they invite students to participate in authentic scientific inquiry—from study design and data collection, to analysis and reporting of results—students participating in CUREs reported significant gains in their comfort with several important professional skills, including conducting field procedures, formulating and analyzing data, normalizing failure, and attempting new procedures on their own. Finally, we review the literature to demonstrate how active learning approaches inherent in CUREs can help students to build familiarity with technologies and techniques for collecting and assessing data from wild mammal populations, as well as to build important professional skills such as teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, and written and oral communication.

     
    more » « less
  3. Evidence has shown that facilitating student-centered learning (SCL) in STEM classrooms enhances student learning and satisfaction [1]–[3]. However, despite increased support from educational and government bodies to incorporate SCL practices [1], minimal changes have been made in undergraduate STEM curriculum [4]. Faculty often teach as they were taught, relying heavily on traditional lecture-based teaching to disseminate knowledge [4]. Though some faculty express the desire to improve their teaching strategies, they feel limited by a lack of time, training, and incentives [4], [5]. To maximize student learning while minimizing instructor effort to change content, courses can be designed to incorporate simpler, less time-consuming SCL strategies that still have a positive impact on student experience. In this paper, we present one example of utilizing a variety of simple SCL strategies throughout the design and implementation of a 4-week long module. This module focused on introductory tissue engineering concepts and was designed to help students learn foundational knowledge within the field as well as develop critical technical skills. Further, the module sought to develop important professional skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, and communication. During module design and implementation, evidence-based SCL teaching strategies were applied to ensure students developed important knowledge and skills within the short timeframe. Lectures featured discussion-based active learning exercises to encourage student engagement and peer collaboration [6]–[8]. The module was designed using a situated perspective, acknowledging that knowing is inseparable from doing [9], and therefore each week, the material taught in the two lecture sessions was directly applied to that week’s lab to reinforce students’ conceptual knowledge through hands-on activities and experimental outcomes. Additionally, the majority of assignments served as formative assessments to motivate student performance while providing instructors with feedback to identify misconceptions and make real-time module improvements [10]–[12]. Students anonymously responded to pre- and post-module surveys, which focused on topics such as student motivation for enrolling in the module, module expectations, and prior experience. Students were also surveyed for student satisfaction, learning gains, and graduate student teaching team (GSTT) performance. Data suggests a high level of student satisfaction, as most students’ expectations were met, and often exceeded. Students reported developing a deeper understanding of the field of tissue engineering and learning many of the targeted basic lab skills. In addition to hands-on skills, students gained confidence to participate in research and an appreciation for interacting with and learning from peers. Finally, responses with respect to GSTT performance indicated a perceived emphasis on a learner-centered and knowledge/community-centered approaches over assessment-centeredness [13]. Overall, student feedback indicated that SCL teaching strategies can enhance student learning outcomes and experience, even over the short timeframe of this module. Student recommendations for module improvement focused primarily on modifying the lecture content and laboratory component of the module, and not on changing the teaching strategies employed. The success of this module exemplifies how instructors can implement similar strategies to increase student engagement and encourage in-depth discussions without drastically increasing instructor effort to re-format course content. Introduction. 
    more » « less
  4. Shortlidge, Erin (Ed.)
    The ability to navigate scientific obstacles is widely recognized as a hallmark of a scientific disposition and is one predictor of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics persistence for early-career scientists. However, the development of this competency in undergraduate research has been largely underexplored. This study addresses this gap by examining introductory students’ emotional and behavioral responses to research-related challenges and failures that occur in two sequential research-based courses. We describe commonly reported emotions, coping responses, and perceived outcomes and examine relationships between these themes, student demographics, and course enrollment. Students commonly experience frustration, confusion, and disappointment when coping with challenges and failures. Yet the predominance of students report coping responses likely to be adaptive in academic contexts despite experiencing negative emotions. Being enrolled in the second course of a research-based course sequence was related to several shifts in response to challenges during data collection, including less reporting of confusion and fewer reports of learning to be cautious from students. Overall, students in both the first and second courses reported many positive outcomes indicating improvements in their ability to cope with challenge and failure. We assert that educators can improve research-based educational courses by scaffolding students’ research trials, failures, and iterations to support students’ perseverance. 
    more » « less
  5. Concept maps have emerged as a valid and reliable method for assessing deep conceptual understanding in engineering education within disciplines as well as interdisciplinary knowledge integration across disciplines. Most work on concept maps, however, focuses on undergraduates. In this paper, we use concept maps to examine changes in graduate students’ conceptual understanding and knowledge integration resulting from an interdisciplinary graduate program. Our study context is pair of foundational, team-taught courses in an interdisciplinary Disaster Resilience and Risk Management (DRRM) graduate program. The courses include a 3-hour research course and a 1-hour seminar that aim to build student understanding within and across Urban Affairs and Planning, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geosciences, and Business Information Technology. The courses introduce core principles of DRRM and relevant research methods in these disciplines, and drive students to understand the intersections of these disciplines in the context of planning for and responding to natural and human-made disasters. To understand graduate student growth from disciplinary-based to interdisciplinary scholars, we pose the research questions: 1) In what ways do graduate students’ understandings of DRRM change as a result of their introduction to an interdisciplinary graduate research program? and 2) To what extent and in what ways do concept maps serve as a tool to capture interdisciplinary learning in this context? Data includes pre/post concept maps centered on disaster resilience and risk management, a one-page explanation of the post-concept map, and ethnographic field notes gathered from class and faculty meetings. Pre-concept maps were collected on the first day of class; post-concept maps will be collected as part of the final course assignment. We assess the students’ concept maps for depth of conceptual understanding within disciplines and interdisciplinary competency across disciplines, using the field notes to provide explanatory context. The results presented in this paper support the inclusion of an explanation component to concept maps, and also suggest that concept maps alone may not be the best measure of student understanding of concepts within and across disciplines in this specific context. If similar programs wish to use concept maps as an assessment method, we suggest the inclusion of an explanation component and suggest providing explicit instructions that specify the intended audience. We also suggest using a holistic scoring method, as it is more likely to capture nuances in the concept maps than traditional scoring methods, which focus solely on counting factors like hierarchies and number of cross-links. 
    more » « less