Students often struggle to develop an intuitive understanding of the core ideas underlying evolutionary biology. For instance, the concept of "randomness" and how it impacts evolution are not as obvious as we might think. Wouldn't it be cool if there was a way for students to watch evolution happening in real time experiments where they could get a first-hand appreciation for how these things work?
Enter AVIDA, a computer platform where virtual computers -- basically domesticated computer viruses -- compete with each other for access to the computer's processor and memory. AVIDA 'organisms' have 'genomes' -- strings of computer code that let them copy themselves as well as do math operations that get them 'energy'. These genomes mutate randomly during copying, allowing the 'Avidians' to evolve. Importantly, AVIDA isn't a simulation of evolution, but rather a different kind of 'life' that obeys the same laws of selection and drift as the biological world.
AVIDA-ED is a platform developed for using AVIDA in the classroom. It's a simple desktop or browser interface where the user has lots of options for how to set up the 'world' the Avidians will compete in. For our ROSE November Lunch Meeting, Dr. Mickie Powell (UAB Biology) will give us a workshop on how to use AVIDA-ED in an introductory biology classroom. Prior to attending the meeting, please download and read the two files below. Also, go ahead and take a look at the web-based version of AVIDA-ED.
Dr. Rosianna Gray, PhD, from the University of Alabama at Birmimgham led a thoughtful in person and virtual live conversation called "Get Students to Focus on Learning Instead of Grades: Metacognition is the Key" with ROSE members Wednesday, October, 3 2018. Dr. Gray discussed how she helps her introductory students think about their own learning behaviors instead of focusing on just getting good grades. Her insight included telling students to understand material covered in class as though they were needing to teach it and not just taking a test. She also recommends students gradually go through the material in small chunks using variant approaches while self assessing over a longer period of time instead of becoming intimated by large spreads of content. In this way, students can meaningfully engage with the fascinating topics covered in STEM courses and become as passionate as they are smart. In her words "All students are smart. Some just need to adjust their learning behaviors to reach their full potential in class."
Materials from Dr. Gray's Metacognition workshop can be found below:
THE ROSE NETWORK IS NOW FUNDED!
Congratulations to Dr. Jeff Morris, Dr. Trent Sutton, Dr. Jeff Olimpo, and Dr. Sami Raut
In the first back to school meeting of the 2018-19 school year, new and old ROSE members were introduced to the updated direction of the network following NSF funding. Jeff Morris provided a brief history of the network from his end and Jeff Olimpo (UTEP) and Trent Sutton (UA Fairbanks) discussed their new roles in the network. It was discussed that each hub university (UAB, UTEP, and UAF) would intend on assisting a network of community college partners in biology education to enhance the experience of incoming transfer students. Members discussed future directions, including:
Work got you stressed? Or are you talking about education reform so much that you need to spread the word at the local brewery? Good thing ROSE has social events at Cahaba Brewery! The first of many ROSE social was held on Wednesday September 12, 2018. We had fun and saw some new faces, and you can too if you join us for the next one on Wednesday October 17, 2018.
UAB'S biology department had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Sara Brownell of Arizona State University for our weekly seminar series in April 2018. Dr. Brownell is well-known for her work on STEM education pedagogy and her advocacy for active learning and student-centered teaching approaches. Her seminar, "From Conflict to Common Ground: A Call to Use Cultural Competency in Teaching Evolution", focused on work done by Dr. Brownell and her graduate student Liz Barnes about instructor/student interactions influencing acceptance of human evolution in college evolutionary biology courses. Unsurprisingly, Barnes and Brownell discovered that instructor hostility toward religion is an important factor preventing religious students from accepting evolution. Assuming that professors are unlikely to become more religious, and students are unlikely to become less so, Dr. Brownell outlined a strategy to bridge the divide by directly addressing students' beliefs. By simply acknowledging the existence of students' religious beliefs and stating that religion and evolution don't have to be mutually exclusive beliefs, Brownell increased her students' acceptance of macro evolution. In addition to acknowledging religious beliefs, educators can also use other culturally competent strategies like showing students that well-known scientists are religious. Their umbrella framework for unifying these strategies is known as Religious Cultural Competence in Evolution Education (ReCCEE). Dr. Brownell modeled many ReCCEE strategies, as well as incorporating active-learning throughout her talk. The conversation followed during a ROSE lunch, where ROSE members led a discussion with Dr. Brownell about broader education reform.
Rachel Rock, undergraduate student working in Dr. Morris' lab who got to talk with Dr. Brownell after the lunch, said, "She was an inspiration. She made me feel like there is a place for me in academia and that the research I do is relevant." As UAB is emerging in education research and reform, Dr. Brownell's talk could not have come at a more opportune time.
For more information on her lab and its interests, visit: http://sebbers.wixsite.com/biology-ed-lab
The February ROSE Network lunch meeting featured a live-streamed seminar by Dr. Malcolm Campbell from Davidson College, hosted by Dr. Anil Challa (UAB). Dr. Campbell shared with us his experiences with introducing active learning and CUREs into the introductory Biology courses at his institution. He gave us some examples of how his new textbook, “Integrating Concepts in Biology”, uses real data from classic experiments to teach core biological concepts. For example, students can work with the original data from Meselson and Stahl’s classic study that proved that DNA replication is a semi-conservative process.
We also talked extensively about Dr. Campbell’s introductory lab course that uses IGEM-style synthetic biology to let students be creative while learning lab skills and improving understanding of genetic mechanisms and systems biology. Finally, ROSE Network members from UAB and Birmingham Southern had an informative back-and-forth with Dr. Campbell about the logistical challenges of implementing these kinds of reforms in a variety of institutional settings.
The April ROSE meeting will be on Monday, April 2, in Campbell Hall Room 274 (at the corner of 13th and University on the UAB campus) and will coincide with Dr. Sara Brownell's seminar to the UAB Biology Department: "From Conflict to Common Ground: A Call to Use Cultural Competence When Teaching Evolution". Dr. Brownell's seminar will start at 12PM and ROSE members are welcome to attend. Afterward, starting at 1PM, ROSE will sit down with Dr. Brownell for lunch and open discussion.
We had a great first meeting of the ROSE Network today. We discussed the landmark AAAS publication Vision and Change, which lays out a plan for reforming biology education for the 21st century. Our major focus was on the Core Competencies and Core Concepts for undergraduate Biology suggested by Vision and Change. We had an active group discussion section where our network participants discussed how these Core ideas are addressed in our existing classes, and how we could approach them better in the future, especially in terms of the undergraduate Biology curriculum as a whole as opposed to in our individual courses. To learn more about Vision and Change, you can access it [here].
The second ROSE meeting will be held WEDNESDAY, Feb 21, at 11 AM. The topic will be hosted by Dr. Anil Challa with special guest lecture Dr. Malcolm Campbell from Davidson College and lunch will be served in UAB Education Building Room 241-C.
Finals week at UAB looks like students excitedly leaving campus to enjoy time outside of the classroom. Educators, on the other hand, often use this time for working and planning. Such was the case for ten educators who gathered at UAB's Center for Teaching and Learning this week. These educators from both UAB and Birmingham-Southern College represented the fields of Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Genetics, Organic Chemistry, and STEM Education.
Known as the Research on STEM Education network, this group of educators began to set this network in motion. The first full meeting is set to take place in January 2018.
The first ROSE meeting will be held WEDNESDAY, January 24, at 11 AM. The topic will be "Vision and Change" and lunch will be served in UAB Education Building Room 241-C.