I attended the NIMBios INCLUDES conference in February. I was an excellent event highlighting the importance of effective program evaluation for STEM projects. This is particularly important for our programs as we move forward incorporating more undergraduate research and active learning activities in our courses. In order to support our hypothesis that these activities are worthwhile in learning outcomes, we must have data. Using the correct evaluation tools is an important part of meaningful data collection. In working to save the Intro to Biotechnology courses in Texas for the past 2 years, hindsight has taught me that we should have been collecting data all along to support our programs. As we move forward I think it becoming ever more important.
Two presentations that I found particularly interesting were not necessarily focused on evaluation. The first, was by Ashanti Johnson: Lessons Learned (pdf) and her road to success. I found it to be very inspiring, and I think it is worth sharing with students, particularly with under-represented students and women. The second was by David Bressoud: National Evaluation of Undergraduate Mathematics Efforts (pdf. This talk in particular doesn’t relate to biotechnology, but highlights some challenges faced by students pursuing degrees in STEM fields. I often have students who struggle with math. Some of the data that is presented here lends credence to these struggles and hopefully will inspire good mentorship of those students. There are some excellent references included in his talk.
I met some very interesting people and made a couple of contacts regarding undergraduate research in the classroom and articulations that I hope to follow up with soon. Hope there is more to come. If you’re interested in watching any presentations or accessing other talks here is the link to the conference presentations. http://www.nimbios.org/IncludesConf/postconf