Development of an Introductory Neuroscience Teaching Experience for Undergraduates with a Low-Cost Neuroscience Summer Academy

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Undergraduate students studying neuroscience have limited opportunities to develop and apply teaching skills before joining a graduate program. Once in a graduate program, students in neuroscience programs are often hired as teaching assistants, adjuncts, or instructors of record. We propose that a low-cost, mentored, short-term summer neuroscience brain academy with high school student participants provides undergraduate students with critical introductory neuroscience teaching experience. Additionally, the experience serves as a service-learning opportunity for faculty and student personnel in a neuroscience laboratory. In this specific program, undergraduate students generate and deliver neuroscience lessons to high school students under the mentorship of a faculty member. This article contains an overview of the purpose of the summer academy, budgetary considerations, materials required, and the roles of faculty and students, with the goal that this model can be replicated at other universities. We propose that this experience addresses a critical gap in early neuroscience professional training.

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... Surveys from these studies indicate that students not only enjoy these hands-on activites, but that they also improve learning outcomes, increasing test scores by as much as 25% on average 70 . The SpikerBox has even been used as part of a larger program to provide undergraduates the opportunity to teach neuroscience to highschool students 71 . ...
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Background: Electrophysiology has a wide range of biomedical research and clinical applications. As such, education in the theoretical basis and hands-on practice of electrophysiological techniques is essential for biomedical students, including at the undergraduate level. However, offering hands-on learning experiences is particularly difficult in environments with limited resources and infrastructure. Methods: In 2017, we began a project to design and incorporate electrophysiology laboratory practicals into our Biomedical Physics undergraduate curriculum at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. We describe some of the challenges we faced, how we maximized resources to overcome some of these challenges, and in particular, how we used open scholarship approaches to build both educational and research capacity. Results: We succeeded in developing a number of experimental and data analysis practicals in electrophysiology, including electrocardiogram, electromyogram, and electrooculogram techniques. The use of open tools, open platforms, and open licenses was key to the success and broader impact of our project. We share examples of our practicals and explain how we use these activities to strengthen interdisciplinary learning, namely the application of concepts in physics to understanding functions of the human body. Conclusions: Open scholarship provides multiple opportunities for universities to build capacity. Our goal is to provide ideas, materials, and strategies for educators working in similar resource-limited environments.
... The title to this editorial is reflective of several articles in this issue that relate to neuroscience outreach targeting diverse student populations as well as two articles that remind us about the diversity of students in our classrooms and teaching labs. In three articles, we learn how educators and undergraduates collaboratively engage in outreach to bring neuroscience education to three different student populations including preschool (Brown et al. 2019), middle school (Vollbrecht et al., 2019) and high school (Colpitts et al., 2019), which has an impact on the target audience as well as those engaged in the outreach. In an article by Gaudier-Diaz et al. (2019), we learn about undergraduate neuroscience majors beyond their test scores, lab reports or final grades, and instead we learn more about their psycho-social profiles. ...
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Biology graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are significant contributors to the educational mission of universities, particularly in introductory courses, yet there is a lack of empirical data on how to best prepare them for their teaching roles. This essay proposes a conceptual framework for biology GTA teaching professional development (TPD) program evaluation and research with three overarching variable categories for consideration: outcome variables, contextual variables, and moderating variables. The framework’s outcome variables go beyond GTA satisfaction and instead position GTA cognition, GTA teaching practice, and undergraduate learning outcomes as the foci of GTA TPD evaluation and research. For each GTA TPD outcome variable, key evaluation questions and example assessment instruments are introduced to demonstrate how the framework can be used to guide GTA TPD evaluation and research plans. A common conceptual framework is also essential to coordinating the collection and synthesis of empirical data on GTA TPD nationally. Thus, the proposed conceptual framework serves as both a guide for conducting GTA TPD evaluation at single institutions and as a means to coordinate research across institutions at a national level.
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Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) have a large impact on undergraduate instruction but are often poorly prepared to teach. Teaching self-efficacy, an instructor’s belief in his or her ability to teach specific student populations a specific subject, is an important predictor of teaching skill and student achievement. A model of sources of teaching self-efficacy is developed from the GTA literature. This model indicates that teaching experience, departmental teaching climate (including peer and supervisor relationships), and GTA professional development (PD) can act as sources of teaching self-efficacy. The model is pilot tested with 128 GTAs from nine different STEM departments at a midsized research university. Structural equation modeling reveals that K–12 teaching experience, hours and perceived quality of GTA PD, and perception of the departmental facilitating environment are significant factors that explain 32% of the variance in the teaching self-efficacy of STEM GTAs. This model highlights the important contributions of the departmental environment and GTA PD in the development of teaching self-efficacy for STEM GTAs.
This study explored the value of service for undergraduate students enrolled in an Honors and a non-Honors section of a service-learning course. A quasi-experimental study was conducted to identify if students who participated in an Honors (n = 18) section of a ser-vice-learning course show greater gains in attitudes and skills associated with community engagement over the semester than students who participated in a non-Honors (n = 28) course section. The results indicate that students improve their diversity and social justice attitudes, acquire competence and leadership skills, and increase their desire to make a difference through participation in short-term service projects by the end of the term, re-gardless of whether they were in the Honors or non-Honors course. Community partners also appraised both student groups as self-starters who exercise good judgment in their work with service recipients. The consistency of data from teacher and student reports suggests that service-learning is a useful pedagogical strategy for teaching students in both Honors and non-Honors courses.
Incorporating service learning (SL) components can be a very powerful way to engage students, add relevance, and develop community-building skills. SL experiences can play important roles in neuroscience classes, although the roles can be different depending on the needs of the classes. In this paper, we will present two models of incorporating service learning into neuroscience courses. The first model gives an example of using SL in a non-majors course, and the second model gives an example of using SL in a neuroscience class for neuroscience concentrators. After describing the two sets of experiences, we summarize the positive aspects and the challenges involved in creating SL components in neuroscience courses, develop some keys to success, and then provide a list of additional resources.
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