Category Archives: Collaboration

Emerged Idea Led to a Unique Experience in Elephant’s City
Suzan A. Kamel-ElSayed, VMD, MVSc, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies
Oakland University

In May 2019, the physiology faculty at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine Department of Foundational Medical Studies received an email from Dr. Rajeshwari, a faculty member in JSS in a Medical College in India.

While Dr. Rajeshwari was visiting her daughter in Michigan, she requested a departmental visit to meet with the physiology faculty. Responding to her inquiry, I set up a meeting with her and my colleagues where Dr. Rajeshwari expressed her willingness to invite the three of us to present in the 6th Annual National Conference of the Association of Physiologists of India that was held from Sept. 11-14, 2019, in Mysuru, Karnataka, India.

The conference theme was: “Fathoming Physiology: An Insight.” My colleague then suggested a symposium titled “Physiology of Virtue,” where I could present the physiology of fasting since I fast every year during the month of Ramadan for my religion of Islam. To be honest, I was surprised and scared at my colleague’s suggestion. Although I fast every year due to the Quranic decree upon all believers, I was not very knowledgeable of what fasting does to one’s body. In addition, I faced the challenge of what I would present since I did not have any of my own research or data related to the field of fasting. Another concern was the cultural aspect in talking about Ramadan in India and how it would be received by the audience. However, willing to face these challenges, I agreed and admired my colleague’s suggestion and went forward in planning for the conference.

After Dr. Rajeshwari sent the formal invitation with the request for us to provide an abstract for the presentation, I started reading literature related to fasting in general. Reading several research articles and reviews, I was lost in where to begin and what to include. I began to ponder many questions: How will I present fasting as a virtue? Should I bring in religious connections? Will I be able to express spiritual aspects from a Muslim’s perspective? I decided that the aim of my presentation would be to describe how a healthy human body adapts to fasting, and the outcomes that practicing fasting has on an individual level and on the society as a whole. In addition, I found that focusing on the month of Ramadan and etiquettes of fasting required from Muslims had many physiological benefits and allowed me to have a real-world example in which fasting is present in the world.

Visiting India and engaging with physiologists from all over India was a really rich experience. The hospitality, generosity and accommodation that were provided was wonderful and much appreciated. The conference’s opening ceremony included a speech from the University Chancellor who is a religious Hindu Monk, along with Vice Chancellors, the organizing chair, and the secretary. In addition, a keynote speech on the physiological and clinical perspectives of stem cell research was presented by an Indian researcher in New Zealand. I was also able to attend the pre-conference workshops “Behavioral and Cognitive Assessment in Rodents” and “Exercise Physiology Testing in the Lab and Field” free of charge.

For my presentation, I included the definition, origin and types of fasting. In addition, I focused on the spiritual and physical changes that occur during Ramadan Intermittent Fasting (RIF). Under two different subtitles, I was able to summarize my findings. In the first subtitle, “Body Changes During RIF,” I listed all the changes that can happen when fasting during Ramadan. These changes include: activation of stress induced pathways, autophagy, metabolic and hormonal changes, energy consumption and body weight, changes in adipose tissue, changes in the fluid homeostasis and changes in cognitive function and circadian rhythm. In the second subtitle, “Spiritual Changes During RIF,” I presented some examples of spiritual changes and what a worshipper can do. These include development of character, compassion, adaptability, clarity of mind, healthy lifestyle and self-reflection. To conclude my presentation, I spoke of the impacts RIF has on the individual, society, and the global community.

In conclusion, not only was this the first time I visited India, but it was also the first time for me to present a talk about a topic that I did not do personal research on. Presenting in Mysuru not only gave me a chance to share my knowledge, but it allowed me to gain personal insight on historical aspects of the city. It was a unique and rich experience that allows me to not hesitate to accept similar opportunities. I encourage that we, as physiology educators, should approach presenting unfamiliar topics to broaden our horizons and enhance our critical thinking while updating ourselves on research topics in the field of physiology and its real-world application.  Physiology education is really valued globally!

Suzan Kamel-ElSayed, VMD, MVSc, PhD, received her bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Masters of Veterinary Medical Sciences from Assiut University, Egypt. She earned her PhD from Biomedical Sciences Department at School of Medicine in Creighton University, USA. She considers herself a classroom veteran who has taught physiology for more than two decades. She has taught physiology to dental, dental hygiene, medical, nursing, pharmacy and veterinary students in multiple countries including Egypt, Libya and USA. Suzan’s research interests are in bone biology and medical education. She has published several peer reviewed manuscripts and online physiology chapters. Currently, she is an Associate Professor in Department of Foundational Medical Studies in Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB) where she teaches physiology to medical students in organ system courses. Suzan is a co-director of the Cardiovascular Organ System for first year medical students. Suzan also is a volunteer physiology teacher in the summer programs, Future Physicians Summer Enrichment Program (FPSP) and Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) Medical Explorers that are offered for middle and high school students. She has completed a Medical Education Certificate (MEC) and Essential Skills in Medical Education (ESME) program through the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) and Team-Based Learning Collaborative (TBLC) Trainer- Consultant Certification. She is also a member in the OUWB Team-Based Learning (TBL) oversight team. Suzan is an active member in several professional organizations including the American Physiological Society (APS); Michigan Physiological Society (MPS); International Association of Medical Science Educators (IAMSE); Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC); Team Based Learning Collaborative (TBLC); Egyptian Society of Physiological Sciences and its Application; Egyptian Society of Physiology and American Association of Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR).

Synergy – From conference to classroom – The value of attending and doing project-based learning

Monica J. McCullough, PhD
Western Michigan University, Department of Biological Sciences

After attending the 2018 APS – ITL conference for the first time, I walked away with so many actionable ideas to implement in my large classes. One valuable experience was practicing active learning techniques as part of a session. “Doing” helps many to learn much more than “hearing” about best practices. I not only learned much from the active sessions offered at APS-ITL but transferred that experience into my own classroom upon returning.

I decided to try a semester-long project for my Intro to Bio for majors, modifying a project  I learned about from Dr. Beth Beason-Abmayr (http://advan.physiology.org/content/41/2/239) from Rice University.  Dr. Beason-Abmayr introduced ‘The Fictitious Animal Project’ during her session at APS-ITL as one she uses in her Vertebrate Physiology for non-bio majors, averaging around 30 students per semester.  During her session at APS-ITL, we divided into groups, ranging from 2-10, and mimicked the project. I instantly saw the value of this activity and had to add it to my teaching repertoire.  Dr. Beason-Abmayr’s project was to create a fictitious animal that had certain physiological characteristics. Students had categories, such as cardiovascular system, respiratory system, that were randomly selected and answer sets of questions that students would answer about the integration of them, including benefits and trade-offs for the fictitious animal.   They completed scheduled homework sets after topics were discussed in class. The students worked in groups and would present their creations to the class with drawings of their animals. What really piqued my interest was that since students had to create an animal that does not exist in nature, they couldn’t just Google it to create this project, and the potential to bring out their ingenuity to the design. 

Since I was going to teach biological form and function the upcoming Fall, and mind you for the first time, I thought I’d start with this semester-long project for 290 students, which were primarily freshmen. A major component that I wanted to maintain was the student presentations, as this is an important skill for these budding scientists. Obviously, the logistics to maintain this was the first decision, and when factoring in around 75 groups (averaging 4 students per group), I decided that the group presentations would span a total of 4 days at the end of the semester, in a gallery-style presentation. Presenters would line the room with their visual aid and the rest of the class would visit each group with designated rubrics. (Presentation Rubric) Additionally, the individual group members would submit a peer evaluation of their group mates at the end of the day of their presentation. (Group Peer Evaluation). My next modification was to adapt the category options so that the students would create a species that yielded both plant and animal components, as we would be learning about both. There were 5 overall anatomical/physiological categories, including size, circulation, sensory environmental interaction, structure and motility.  These too would be randomized with the use of Google by “rolling the dice” to assign each characteristic. (Project directions)  I continued with Dr. Beason-Abmayr’s project checkpoint of homework sets throughout the semester where students work on a subset of the categories and continue to build their species, as we learn about the topics in class. Each group submitted electronically to Dropbox, and allow time for feedback with rubrics. (HW set 1 rubric example) To end, there was a final wrap-around short answer portion on the final exam where students described each category and how it was incorporated with their own species. This allowed me to check for individual understanding of the project as we all know some group projects allow for ‘moochers’ to do and understand little.   

For me, this project is a keeper. It helped reinforce the essential concepts during the semester and practice soft skills needed to excel in the workforce. It was exciting to see how some students really embraced the project, including creating a costume of their species, 3-D print outs, live plants they’ve modified and sculptures. While difficult, there were also some group conflicts that did occur, yet, these emerging adults were able to work through their differences. A key factor to this was each group developing their own contract at the very beginning of the semester and was open for adjustments for the duration of the semester. (Team Contract)  The big take-away for me is, it is worth the risk to try something new in the classroom, no matter how large or small the size. This project helped student gains with the material, and practice throughout the semester. As an educator, I feel it is pivotal to find ways that help our students feel confident with the material and keep them curious and innovative. Just as at the top presentations at our conference, doing science makes concepts stick much more than just hearing about it.  

Monica J. McCullough, PhD joined as a Faculty Specialist in the Department of Biological Sciences and Western Michigan University in 2016, prior to which she was faculty at Adrian College. She currently teaches large introductory courses, including Anatomy, Physiology and Biological Form and Function. Dr. McCullough received her BS and PhD from Western Michigan University and studied regulation of neurotrophic factors. Dr. McCullough has 4 young children and has found a great interest in doing science demo’s in her elementary children’s’ classrooms.

How to motivate students to come prepared for class?

The flipped classroom is a teaching method where the first exposure to the subject occurs in an individual learning space and time and the application of content is practiced in an interactive guided group space. Freeing up class time by shifting traditional lecture outside of class allows the instructor more time for student-centered activities and formative assessments which are beneficial to students. The flipped teaching model has been shown to benefit students as it allows self-pacing, encourages students to become independent learners, and assists them to remain engaged in the classroom. In addition, students can access content anytime and from anywhere. Furthermore, collaborative learning and peer tutoring can be integrated due to freed-up class time with this student-centered approach. Given these benefits, the flipped teaching method has been shown to improve student performance compared to traditional lecture-based teaching. Compared to the flipped classroom, the traditional didactic lecture is considered a passive type of delivery where students may be hesitant to ask questions and may omit key points while trying to write or type notes.

There are two key components in the flipped teaching model: pre-class preparation by students and in-class student-centered activities. Both steps involve formative assessments to hold students accountable. The importance of the pre-class assessment is mainly to encourage students to complete their assignments and therefore, they are better prepared for the in-class application of knowledge. In-class activities involve application of knowledge in a collaborative space with the guidance of the instructor. Although the flipped teaching method is highly structured, students still come to class unprepared.

Retrieval practice is yet another powerful learning tool where learners are expected to recall information after being exposed to the content. Recalling information from memory strengthens information and forgetting is less likely to occur. Retrieval of information strengthens skills through long-term meaningful learning. Repeated retrieval through exercises involving inquiry of information is shown to improve learning.

The use of retrieval strategy in pre-class assessments is expected to increase the chance of students completing their pre-class assignment, which is often a challenge. Students attending class without having any exposure to the pre-class assignment in the flipped classroom will drastically affect their performance in the classroom. In my flipped classroom, a quiz consisting of lower level of Bloom’s taxonomy questions is given over the pre-class assignment where the students are not expected to utilize any resources or notes but to answer questions from their own knowledge. Once this exercise is completed, a review of the quiz and the active learning portion of the class occurs. I use a modified team-based learning activity where the groups begin answering higher order application questions. Again, no resources are accessible during this activity to promote their preparation beforehand. Since it is a group activity, if one student is not prepared, other students may fill this gap. The group typically engages every student and there is a rich conversation of the topic being discussed in class. The classroom becomes a perfect place for collaborative learning and peer tutoring. For rapid feedback to the students, the group answers to application questions are discussed with the instructor prior to the end of the class session.

Student preparation has improved since the incorporation of the flipped teaching model along with retrieval exercises in my teaching, but there are always some students who are not motivated to come prepared to class. It is possible that there are other constraints students may have that we will not be able to fix but will continue to be searching for and developing newer strategies for helping these students maximize their learning.

Dr. Gopalan received her PhD in Physiology from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. After completing two years of postdoctoral training at Michigan State University, she began her teaching endeavor at Maryville University where she taught Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology courses in the Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy programs as well as the two-semester sequence of Human Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) courses to Nursing students. She later joined St. Louis Community College where she continued to teach A&P courses. Dr. Gopalan also taught at St. Louis College of Pharmacy prior to her current faculty position at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where she teaches Advanced Human Physiology and Pathophysiology for the doctoral degrees in the Nurse Anesthetist and Nurse Practitioner programs. Besides teaching, she has an active research agenda in teaching as well as in the endocrine physiology field she was trained in.
Sound Off! What is YOUR PECOP Wish List? 

2014 was a notable year for physiology education:  APS launched both the Institute on Teaching and Learning (ITL) (1) and the Physiology Educators Community of Practice (PECOP) (2, 3, 4, 5). Since then, the ITL has become a regular, recurring meeting (2016 and 2018), attracting a growing attendance.

 

 

 

Similarly, PECOP has grown in both depth and breadth: 

  • supporting more than two dozen PECOP Fellows and Thought Leaders to attend the 2014 ITL and develop a strong foundational network;  
  • holding regular networking sessions at the ITL and Experimental Biology; 
  • engaging the PECOP community in writing more than 70 blog entries on a range of education topics in the Life Science Teaching Resource Community (LifeSciTRC); 
  • promoting research collaborations among PECOP participants; and 
  • engaging physiology educators in leadership roles (6, 7) such as:
    • PECOP Blog Coordinator – Barbara Goodman, Sanford School of Medicine of The University of South Dakota;
    • PhUn Week Blog Coordinator – Patricia Halpin, University of New Hampshire at Manchester;
    • LifeSciTRC Community Review Editor – Lynn Diener, Mount Mary University;
    • ITL Program Committees led by Barbara Goodman and Thomas Pressley, Texas Tech Univ. Health Sciences Center School of Medicine. 

PECOP was supported initially by a one-year planning grant from the National Science Foundation Research Collaboration Network-Undergraduate Biology Education (RCN-UBE) Incubator program (Grant No. 1346220). In 2018, APS plans to submit a proposal for a five-year RCN-UBE grant to grow the PECOP network and activities. This growth will be guided and driven by the PECOP network of educators so we need to hear from YOU about what the PECOP community should do in the coming years. We have gathered three major ideas from previous PECOP networking sessions and ITL meeting discussions: 

  1. Help new educators get a good start.  

At the 2014 ITL, we pilot tested a new APS Professional Skills Training program, “Becoming an Effective Teacher.” Results were excellent and, using our new Schoology LMS for online professional development, APS staff can adapt these excellent materials for online use. However, this would be a community-driven program that needs experienced educators to share their expertise and guide new educators onto the “evidence-based teaching” path.  

          2. Help experienced educators use “evidence-based teaching” more effectively.  

Many of the ITL sessions and articles in both the PECOP blog and Advances in Physiology Education focus on using teaching methods that have strong evidence of their broad effectiveness. Other articles describe studies that compare methods or assess the effectiveness of methods in new teaching scenarios (diverse students, institutions, and courses). How can the PECOP community help colleagues who seek to increase the “evidence-base” of their teaching? The PECOP Fellows program helped a number of educators start on this path. Should we continue this program? 

          3. Help educators participate in scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL). 

While we are often adept at designing (or helping students design) experiments at the bench, we are often genuinely perplexed when designing an experimental study involving the uber-tricky subject, the classroom student. Students differ widely so what can serve as the “control” group for my class? How many subjects do I need? What IS the unit of study? The student? The class? The course? What should I measure? Is that measure reliable? Is it valid? And what are the appropriate statistical tests to use? A good way to being engaging in SOTL is the same way we learned about bench research…we collaborated with and learned from someone with greater expertise. Our PECOP community has already fostered research collaborations among members. How can we grow the number of research collaborations in our community? 

 

What are YOUR ideas? 

These are just THREE of the many goals we could set for PECOP. Now share YOUR thoughts! How should PECOP support the growth and development of the physiology education community in the coming years?  

 

Reply to the discussion below or send your comments (by December 15) directly to me. Join us as we grow the PECOP community and support physiology educators! 

Marsha Matyas is a biologist, educator, and science education researcher. For nearly 30 years, she has worked at scientific professional associations (AAAS and now APS) to promote excellence in science education at all levels and to increase diversity within the scientific community. Marsha’s research focuses on factors that promote science career interest and success, especially among women and underrepresented minorities. At the APS, Marsha directs the Education Office and programs, which span from pre-Kindergarten to professional development and continuing education for Ph.D. and M.D. scientists.

 

References:

  1. What is the American Physiological Society’s ITL and who are the members of PECOP?

Barbara E. Goodman, Marsha Lakes Matyas, Advances in Physiology Education Jun 2016, 40 (2) 239-242; DOI:10.1152/advan.00045.2016. 

  1. Harnessing the power of an online teaching community: connect, share, and collaborate

Marsha Lakes Matyas, Dee U. Silverthorn, Advances in Physiology Education Dec 2015, 39 (4) 272-277; DOI: 10.1152/advan.00093.2015. 

  1. How do the Institutes on Teaching and Learning (ITLs) nurture the members of the Physiology Educators Community of Practice (PECOP)?

Barbara E. Goodman, Advances in Physiology Education Sep 2017, 41 (3) 354-356; DOI:10.1152/advan.00050.2017. 

  1. The pipeline of physiology courses in community colleges: to university, medical school, and beyond

Jenny McFarland, Pamela Pape-Lindstrom, Advances in Physiology Education Dec 2016, 40 (4) 473-476; DOI:10.1152/advan.00141.2016.  

  1.  The Physiology Education Community of Practice (PECOP) wants YOU!

Goodman, B. (2014, November 1).  Retrieved from: http://www.lifescitrc.org/resource.cfm?submissionID=11213. 

  1. Lurk or lead? The benefits of community participation

Marsha Lakes Matyas, Advances in Physiology Education Mar 2017, 41 (1) 145-148; DOI:10.1152/advan.00200.2016. 

  1. Educational leadership: benefits of stepping outside the classroom

Thomas A. Pressley, Advances in Physiology Education Sep 2017, 41 (3) 454-456; DOI:10.1152/advan.00083.2017. 

Making the most of being a new instructor: Learning that collaborative learning is my silver bullet

When starting my first semester as an associate instructor in graduate school, I felt nervous and anxious, but also excited and privileged. I went to graduate school with the intention of not only performing experiments and learning about physiology and behavior, but also with the strong desire to learn how to teach and mentor students at all stages of their undergraduate careers. Many of my colleagues had very similar reactions to the first few weeks of teaching. I spoke to a few of them about these feelings recently. Here is what they had to say:

“The first week always felt a bit awkward. Students are still getting comfortable with your presence and getting to know you.”

“I felt curious about a new system, nervous about giving the students what they needed out of the class, and excited to lead a class for the first time.”

“I remember not feeling prepared and incredibly nervous! I wish I had known what I know about teaching now, but the nerves haven’t gone away either…I think I’m now able to better apply “what works” as far as classroom techniques.”

In thinking about all of these ideas, what particularly resonated with me was the notion that the nerves haven’t quite gone away, but I too have learned that there are techniques I can now implement in my classroom, helping to hide some of those feelings. I began my graduate career helping to teach an Integrative Human Physiology course, where I was able to teach teams of students in a case-based classroom. In this course, students engaged in collaborative learning (team-based learning) in every class period (something I had not witnessed myself during my education thus far). Collaborative learning is a technique in which students engage in problem solving with their peers, using the different skills and expertise of the group, as well as resources and tools that are available to them [1,2].  Students in this course were put into teams, and members of each team were responsible for their own learning and for assisting in the learning of their teammates. In this kind of classroom environment, the team’s culture and how they interacted with each other were key elements of their success. While a graduate student instructor for this course, I met with the teams regularly to facilitate a discussion, of not only the course material, but also their strategies for working collectively and how to approach their assignments as a team.

What I feel to be the most important part of teaching physiology is that we have to be able to adapt to the changing environment and have the courage to try new techniques. Students learn at their own pace, and each student learns in a slightly different way, therefore it is important to have flexibility in how we teach [1]. What I hadn’t realized until spending time using collaborative learning in my own classroom is that it can be adapted for so many disparate situations. I’ve found that it will work for a diverse range of students, and that with careful thought and planning (though sometimes on the fly), it can work well in a host of teaching situations and for a number of different types of learning styles.

 

A few examples for an introductory course:

  1. Taboo

    1. This game is similar to the actual game, “Taboo,” in which the goal is for students to get their teammates to guess the word at the top of the card. He or she can say any word to try to make the teammates guess, except for the words written below it on the card. The game can be played by a small team of about 3-5 students. It is important to emphasize that teams should discuss the cards after playing them, so they can master the connections.
    2. You can make these cards beforehand, so students can immediately start playing, or you can have the teams make their own cards, which will also help them think of the connections between the words before starting.
  2. Affinity Map

    1. This game has to do with making connections between key words. In many introductory classes, students must master lots of vocabulary, but “mastering” should mean more than just memorizing. This activity gives students the opportunity to discuss how these important terms create an understanding of a concept.
    2. This can be used for many different concepts, but here is an example for the properties of water: Each student in a group receives 3 or 4 post-it notes. Ask each student to write down one property of water. They might draw the molecular symbol, write a fact about the universal solvent, discuss how much of our body is composed of water, hydrogen bonds, etc. It doesn’t really matter what they write, and some will write similar things, but that’s okay. After they have all finished, students will go up to the board and place their post-it notes on the board where everyone can read them. Then the group, together (and out loud), will organize their statements about water, putting them into groups (affinities). They should categorize the affinities, noting what is the same and what is missing and can label the affinities. Some may feel like adding additional post-its to make more connections, and that is okay too.

 And one for the more advanced course:

  1. Case Study

    1. This can be used throughout a semester to help students synthesize many physiological concepts in a single activity with their team. It helps to stimulate discussions about many different concepts rather than a focused discussion on just one concept they may have learned.
    2. Provide a case study to each team of students (they can be all the same or different). Allow the students to work in their teams to analyze and synthesize their case. You can have them write important aspects of the case either on paper or on a large white board (if available). Once students have completed their case study, have teams share their analysis with the whole classroom, providing the opportunity for questions and discussion. You can also have teams make their own case studies for other teams in the class. When students take the time to create their own case studies, they often learn even more!

Throughout all of these activities, I always walk around to make sure students are both on task and making connections.

 

Moving Forward

As I continue in my graduate career and beyond, what is most important is that I try to be flexible enough to see the possibilities that there are in every new classroom. Each classroom that I am in is a little different than the next, so understanding that collaborative learning can help students with a range of concepts, and having the courage to adapt collaborative learning in a way that will work for my classroom has been very helpful (and will continue to be useful). It is almost as if each classroom has its own personality that might change from day to day, so knowing that I have a set of key techniques that I can fine-tune for each classroom is helpful as I continue in my teaching career and can hopefully be helpful in yours!

 

References

[1]       J. Bransford, A. Brown, R. Cocking, How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 2000.

[2]       D.B. Luckie, J.J. Maleszewski, S.D. Loznak, M. Krha, Infusion of collaborative inquiry throughout a biology curriculum increases student learning: a four-year study of “Teams and Streams”., Adv. Physiol. Educ. 28 (2004) 199–209. doi:10.1152/advan.00025.2004.

 

Kristyn Sylvia received her B.S. in Biology from Stonehill College, and is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology at Indiana University (IU) and a NIH Common Themes in Reproductive Diversity fellow where she studies how the neuroendocrine system interacts with the reproductive and immune systems early in life in Siberian hamsters. She worked as a clinical research associate in Boston, MA, before coming to IU. She is also a graduate student instructor in Biology, where she has taught a number of courses, including Human Integrative Physiology, and she serves on the Animal Behavior Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, where she collects and analyzes data on the major and addresses potential changes to the curriculum as it grows. She also serves on the APS Teaching of Physiology Section Trainee Committee.
Confessions of a Frequent Lurker: Getting What You Need from Online Communities

As one of the founding leaders of PECOP, I’m always exhorting people  to “Engage! Get involved! Comment! Rate! Review! Contribute!” But today I willingly confess:  I am an online lurker. It’s not as shocking as it sounds. I’m part of the >90% of people who go to online communities to get information but rarely share or contribute.  For example, I spent the last half hour at Overstock.com shopping for a cushion for my outdoor chair. I found the product I wanted easily and spent the next 15 minutes reading reviews at both Overstock and Amazon to see whether previous purchasers (e.g., the customer “community”) thought the cushion was worth the money. One lady offered up the history of her patio décor…pretty useless.  But most reviews were short, to the point, and valuable. My “lurking” led me to feel confident about the purchase so I bought the cushion. In the last year, I have used online communities to “research” all kinds of purchases from shoes to cars to plumbing services. More importantly, I “lurk” at online communities to learn about services, apps, journals, organizations, and publications.

What’s wrong with being a lurker? Absolutely nothing! It’s one of the five phases of community membership as described by Kim (2006) and Noff:

  • Lurkers: those who visit infrequently, read, but never participate (i.e., comment or submit new content)
  • Novices: those who are new and are seeking to learn the rules of the community and how to participate
  • Insiders: those who participate regularly in the community
  • Leaders: those who not only participate, but encourage interaction and engagement by others
  • Elders: those who are leaving the community due to changes in personal interests, changes in the community, etc.

Lurkers also are the dominant group in community membership. In 2006, the Nielsen Norman Group found that 90% of online community members are lurkers, 9% of members comment occasionally and only 1% of members actively contribute significant content. More recent data suggests that engagement is increasing and, by 2011, engagement looked more like 70-20-10 for lurkers-commenters-content creators. But the vast majority of members are still primarily lurkers.

Why do so many of us lurk rather than engage in online communities? Blogger Joel Lee suggests that many feel they have nothing worthy to contribute while others fear negative reactions to their comments or questions. Alternatively, as a commenter to Lee’s blog noted, users may simply have better things to do with their time than to engage.

Social media

However, for professional networking, online community use is growing.  A recent survey by the Society of New Communication Research (SNCR) found that people spend much more of their online time in professional networks than with friends or family. And when asked what online channels they use to share information with colleagues, social networking (25%), microblogging (e.g., Twitter, 28%), and direct email (31%) comprised the top three methods and were surprisingly comparable in frequency.

Why engage, comment, or contribute? The SNCR survey found that the top two reasons people moved from lurker to participant were:

  1. To help others by sharing information, ideas, and experiences; and
  2. To participate in a professional community of colleagues and peers.

How do YOU choose? Where do you lurk? Where do you contribute? And where do you lead?

Personally, I lurk at sites where I’m considering buying something, taking a course, going to visit…essentially where I’m a consumer and have limited expertise to offer. I contribute to sites that I use regularly for travel or business. Friends know I’m a frequent TripAdvisor reviewer and share science news on my Facebook page. My APS colleagues know I use Vivino to select and submit reviews of wines for APS committee dinners. I lead at those sites where I fill a specific role (e.g., my church’s Facebook page). Of course, here at the LifeSciTRC, I get to do a lot of leading and contributing!

What do we gain by contributing? Kollock (1999) says active users receive more useful help than do lurkers. He also states that visible and useful contributions lead to a positive reputation in the community and that actively contributing helps users feel that they have a real impact on their communities. For me, it’s all about give and take. I receive a steady stream of helpful information from online communities…I try to return the favor. And I learn how to use social media by contributing. It really demystifies the whole process.

Have you had good or bad experiences through lurking, commenting, or contributing to a community? Please share on the bulletin board below…let’s keep the conversation going. After all, this OUR PECOP community!

In the meantime, I’ll wait for my chair cushion to arrive. I will receive several emails from Overstock.com asking me to review it. If I like the cushion, I will be inclined to ignore the emails, but I really should write a review. Of course, if the cushion is rubbish, I will most certainly, in the words of Captain Picard, ”Engage!”

 

Resources

Kollock, P. The economies of online cooperation: Gifts and public goods in cyberspace. In  M. Smith and P. Kollock (Eds.), Communities in Cyberspace. London: Routledge.

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Marsha Matyas is a biologist, educator, and science education researcher. For nearly 30 years, she has worked at scientific professional associations (AAAS and now APS) to promote excellence in science education at all levels and to increase diversity within the scientific community. Marsha’s research focuses on factors that promote science career interest and success, especially among women and underrepresented minorities. At the APS, Marsha directs the Education Office and programs, which span from pre-Kindergarten to professional development and continuing education for Ph.D. and M.D. scientists. Marsha will be speaking more about community engagement, especially for physiology educators, at the APS Institute on Teaching and Learning.

 

 

5 New Year’s Resolutions Every Teacher Should Make in 2016

checklistThe fall semester is done, end of year evaluations are complete, and now you sit to reflect.  However, one thing remains – to make resolutions for 2016.

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, the top 10 resolutions for 2015 were:

  1. Lose weight
  2. Get organized
  3. Spend less/save more
  4. Enjoy life to the fullest
  5. Stay fit/healthy
  6. Learn something exciting
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Help others in their dreams
  9. Fall in love
  10. Spend more time with family

 

Do these resolutions sound familiar?  While these resolutions focus on personal growth, December also marks a time to make career resolutions.  Who do you aspire to be in your teaching, instruction, or position?  What type of person do you aspire to be?

 

If you are anything like me, at the end of the semester I reflect on my semester failures and successes.  My immediate response is to create a mental list of things to improve on such as,

“Next semester I will do ___ before the semester starts.”

“No problem, I’ll do ______ during the break time to.”

“I’ll start early next time”

“I will do that activity/assignment next semester.”

“I will never do ____ again.“

With each passing day, the list fades away and gets tucked away in the back of my mind never to be found again.

 

Resolutions help achieve personal and professional goals.  A recent article by Laura Garnett (Inc.com) described New Year resolutions made by “truly remarkable CEOs.”  The longer I read the article, the more parallels I could see between the resolutions of company leaders and teachers.  We should also think strategically as CEOs do.  So what can we learn from the resolutions of CEOs?  Keep reading to find five resolutions teachers should make in 2016.

 

Five Resolutions Teachers Should Make in 2016

Make a strategic change in 2016 to become the teacher you aim to be. It’s time!

 

1. Meet a new person every week (16 week semester)

Network.  A typical semester spans 16 weeks.  The goal is realistic and accomplishable – meet 16 people in one semester.  CEOs take the people-first attitude very seriously.  They are focus on their employees and make them engage in their work so all could benefit.

How?  Get out of the office/classroom.  Talk to people inside/outside of your department.  Attend university functions or activities, sit on committees, or go to training events offered by your school to meet someone new every week.

 

2. Learn something new every day (blogs, podcasts, public radio, etc.)

Teachers are lifelong learners, but how intentional are you to learn something new every day?  Make it a point something daily in/outside of your field.  Read a blog, tune in to a daily/weekly podcast, listen to public radio, read the newspaper, etc.

 

3. Focus on the long-term, not the short-term

Resolutions most often focus on getting quick and immediate results.  Lose 10 pounds.  Prepare a manuscript.  Attend a workshop.  Instead, pick a resolution that helps you reach long-term success.  Be strategic about your time, invest in your skills, and plan for personal/professional growth.

 

4. Be a better mentor and connect with your own mentors

Commit to being more engaged in your mentoring (Statistic Brain).  Be strategic about the mentoring you give others and about the mentoring you seek for yourself.  Mentoring is the key to success in any field or discipline.  Make it a resolution to engage your students in quality mentoring and/or to reach out to your own mentor.

 

5. Find your zone and do work that inspires you

You do great work when you operate in your zone.  Your zone is the place where you face challenges with excitement.  The zone is about putting your talent inline with your purpose.  This is where you do your best work – at the point where you find fulfillment and feel completely engaged.  Are you in the zone or working towards it?

 

Decide today to make 2016 the year to make your work matter.  Align your zone with your personal purpose.  Be strategic and resolve to make it happen.

 

Editor’s Note:  And decide to participate in the American Physiological Society Institute on Teaching and Learning in Madison, WI sponsored by your APS Teaching Section and the Physiology Educator Community of Practice June 20-24, 2016 (see www.the-aps.org/itl)!

 

Jessica Ibarra

 

 

 

 

Jessica Ibarra received her PhD and postdoctoral training at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Jessica is an assistant professor at the University of the Incarnate Word. She has taught undergraduate anatomy and physiology, medical physiology, general biology, and graduate courses in physiology and neuroanatomy. Her experiences include student-centered teaching strategies, health profession student advisement, K-12 science outreach, and studied inflammation in cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and diabetes. Jessica was recently appointed to anatomy faculty to teach the anatomical sciences in the Masters of Biomedical Sciences program in the UIW School of Osteopathic Medicine. When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family and running.

6 Recommendations for Nurturing and Including Adjunct Faculty in our Communities

shutterstock_210979459 (2)An on-campus community must include faculty, students, staff and administrators, but ‘faculty’ may not wholeheartedly include adjunct faculty. I have been working as a non-tenure-track part-time faculty member, or an adjunct, since fall of 2011. For me and many others a variety of courses are in my normal rotation; Anatomy and Physiology, Human Biology, General Biology, Nutrition, Medical Terminology and Genetics. I currently teach at five Bay Area community colleges, usually 3-4 concurrently. We adjuncts are hired for content knowledge and are comfortable with the subject matter, but most lack formal training in teaching/education. While not all individuals that accept a short-term teaching contract desire a long-term college teaching career, this post focuses on those who, like myself, have made part-time teaching into a full-time job. This drives me to seek professional development (PD) opportunities to maximize my efficacy, improve the classroom experience and student success, as well as make meaningful contributions to my department(s) and college(s).

In recent months, the ‘plight of the adjunct’ has been sensationalized in the media, February 2015 saw the first National Adjunct Walkout Day approach and pass, leaving the public, students, faculty and parents concerned about the quality and working conditions of ‘the new majority;’ the growing faction of adjunct faculty who have become essential in educating the next generation nationwide2.

I (and many of my biology colleagues) feel fortunate to teach a variety of in-demand courses for pre-professional or allied health students; and have yet to encounter a shortage of available work, however we often struggle to fit together our various contracts into an operational schedule. Rather than a shortage of contracts, I found that there appears, at least to many adjuncts, to be a shortage of opportunities to participate in a campus community. As an elected adjunct faculty representative for my local Academic Senate, I have worked to communicate with my constituents and find ways to improve the opportunities for adjuncts on several campuses. One difficulty we face is the scheduling of committee meetings, workgroups and professional development seminars, which frequently conflict with teaching contracts, meetings or workshops at other colleges, especially leading up to a new semester.

As The Higher Learning Commission described the value and necessity of professional development for adjuncts in a recent article, (which I would encourage anyone involved in planning or facilitating professional development to read), especially when considering the needs, interests and desires of adjunct faculty. The article outlines six areas that should be considered when planning PD and building a community that includes adjunct faculty. I largely agree with these and would like to offer some additional suggestions based my own experiences, which can hopefully be used at other colleges.

6 Suggestions for Building a Community that Includes Adjunct Faculty

 1. Offer professional development in series

Many adjuncts struggle when developing activities and authentic assessments, both tasks which become exponentially harder when teaching several different classes at several schools, using different textbooks, on an unpredictably rotating basis. Although I do not have personal experience with the tenure process, and am certain that it varies between colleges, I hear that the tenure process often consists of weekly meetings with a tenure committee, peer-mentoring, frequent classroom evaluations with feedback and other processes that help the newly hired faculty flourish as a member of the community. I have yet to find a similar process that allows new adjuncts who desire a long-term teaching career to similarly improve, but feel that any effort put into this at a college would provide boundless benefits to the faculty, departments, students and college.

2. Enlist full-time faculty and staff members to facilitate professional development sessions

This is one that I think needs to be revised, as I strongly believe that adjuncts should also be included in the planning processes, to ensure that the next point #3 is being satisfied.

3. Offer relevant topics that include institutional policies and procedures as well as pedagogical best practices

In order to help adjunct faculty (many of whom have little formal pedagogical training), workshops should focus on helping faculty learn via interactive workshops and classroom simulations active and experiential methods such as collaborative assignments and high-impact practices, especially those that focus on building student critical thinking skills and active learning. Anyone planning and scheduling PD workshops must consider the level of training that many adjuncts bring to the classroom. I have heard many adjuncts lament what they could have done with the morning rather than attend a PD session that did not provide tangible strategies to enhance student learning. For many, it feels like a waste of precious time to attend an unpaid session, and may deter them from future attendance. This brings us to the next point.

4. Provide stipends to adjuncts that complete workshop series

Even if not for a series, stipends wherever possible for adjuncts completing workshops or work outside of the classroom should be considered. In my experience, equity funds and other special sources of money may be used. In addition to on campus work, adjunct faculty should also be supported in terms of being able to attend outside seminars, the majority of the off-campus PD I have been involved in was made possible through scholarship or grant opportunities that I sought on my own. Often, it is very difficult for us to get a substitute, while the lost wages, cost of travel and the workshop make out of state seminars cost prohibitive for many part-timers who are not eligible for reimbursement or leave pay.

5. Provide coffee and tea at every session; provide light meals where appropriate

Yes.

6. Employ a visible hands-on approach to community building

A major area where we adjunct faculty could be better supported is in our involvement on campus outside of teaching (e.g., committee work or new course or curricula development). I have found that at some campuses we are allowed to attend such meetings, but are unaware of when the meetings are scheduled, discouraged from ‘working for free’ or are told that we are not eligible to actually serve on a specific committee. Being clear about eligibility criteria, holding regular meeting times and keeping websites with agendas or action items up-to-date are essential. For many adjunct faculty and their colleges, a major challenge is to raise awareness, disseminate information and gather participants and contributors.

With these challenges in mind, I believe the LifeSciTRC is a great resource to facilitate the expansion of on and off-campus resources and opportunities for faculty to share high-impact practices, activities and assessments related to specific content areas or learning outcomes. Lastly when it comes to upcoming professional development, funding opportunities or seminars, please do not hesitate to invite us personally with an email or even a note in our mailbox because it is difficult to keep up with 5 institutional email accounts.
Berg

 

Roseann Berg is an adjunct faculty member at 5 Bay Area community colleges, teaching a variety of Biology classes. She received her B.S. in General Biology from the University of Washington, and her Doctorate of Chiropractic from Palmer College of Chiropractic West, in San Jose, CA. She is involved on campus in her third year as a Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment Co-Coordinator at Foothill College, an Academic Senate representative, and a GE curriculum reviewer. At Mission College, she participates in a Reading Apprenticeship Faculty Inquiry Group, and helped plan and carry out a pilot study on the effects of Reading Apprenticeship in the classroom on student engagement across several disciplines.

 

Observing PECOP’s Impact at the 2015 Experimental Biology (EB) Meeting

The purpose of the physiology education community of practice (PECOP) is to build community support and collaborations and to create emergent opportunities that might not exist in our isolated silos of departments and institutions.  PECOP fellows and participants had a significant presence in the APS teaching section poster session at EB in Boston, with more than a dozen posters.  Several were authored by educators who participated in the APS-ITL (institute on teaching and learning) in Maine in June 2014. The APS teaching section reflects a growing community of physiology educators who are engaged in developing and applying student-centered learning practices, in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), and in physiology education research. Here, we highlight three posters that illustrate the impact of the APS-ITL and PECOP:

First, the APS-ITL catalyzed the formation of a new inter-institutional group and the comparative animal physiology core concept project (see Cliff et al. poster # 541.32 and Patricia Halpin’s PECOP blog post).  This group has formulated specific core concepts that are essential for student learning in animal physiology.

Second, attending the APS-ITL encouraged a PECOP fellow to attend and present at EB for the first time (poster # 687.23).  Trudy Witt followed up on her fascinating historical poster at the APS-ITL and came to her first EB meeting to share more information about the history of teaching using simulators.  From her poster, we were reminded that teaching with simulations is not new.  A French midwife in the 1700s invented an obstetric simulator and used it to teach midwifery to thousands of illiterate women.

Finally, another poster presented a different type of simulation.  Kerry Hull’s poster (#541.2) built on her poster at the APS-ITL. It described role-playing simulations that help students master complex physiological processes (negative feedback and ventilation). Kerry assessed student comments and exam performance and concluded that role-playing simulations in larger classes can benefit both participants and observers. She also argues that simulations are more effective when they are used in multiple classes so that students have a chance to revisit them, rather than being exposed only once.

These posters illustrate a few of the effects of this community of practice that were manifest at EB 2015:

  • bringing together new collaborative groups to create new tools and research projects;
  • broadening participation in the APS teaching section at EB by encouraging first-timers to present scholarly work;
  • enabling support and constructive feedback for physiology education research; and
  • providing opportunities for PECOP participants to meet and reconnect in person and continue conversations that began in Maine last year.

Did you reconnect with PECOP participants or fellows at the APS teaching poster sessions, symposia, dinner, or box lunch?  Please share your EB experiences in the comments.  We would also like others to share additional information about other posters you saw or presented in the comments to this blog.

 

Jenny-Blog-Photo

 

Jenny L. McFarland is tenured faculty and former department chair in the Biology Department at the Edmonds Community College (EdCC) where she teaches human anatomy & physiology and introductory biology courses and conducts biology education research on student learning or core concepts in physiology. She received the EdCC Echelbarger-Sherman Exceptional Faculty Award in 2013. She is a PULSE (Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education) Leadership Fellow (selected 2012). As a PULSE fellow and a steering committee member on several NSF-funded projects, she advocates for excellence in undergraduate physiology, biology and STEM education at 2-year and 4-year institutions. She has served as a facilitator for the NW PULSE workshops to transform life science departments in the Pacific Northwest. Jenny earned her B.S. in Aeronautics & Astronautics Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in Physiology & Biophysics and Physiological Psychology from the University of Washington in Seattle.

 

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Robin McFarland teaches anatomy and physiology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. She earned her Ph.D. in physical (biological) anthropology from the University of Washington. Robin studies ape anatomy with her colleagues from University of California, Santa Cruz. She coauthored Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology with Ken Saladin.

 

Biology Education Research Group (BERG) at the University of Washington – Seattle, an example of a Local Community of Practice

The Biology Education Research Group (BERG) at University of Washington (UW) is an example of a local community of practice (COP); see http://uw-berg.wikifoundry.com. “Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain … groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, 2006).

In 2009, BERG grew out of a desire to establish a regular conversation for faculty and others interested in biology education and provide opportunities for discussing the DBER (Discipline Based Education Research), SOTL (Scholarship of Teaching & Learning) and cognitive science literature, as well as sharing expertise and problem solving. We encourage the formation of other, similar local and regional COPs to promote, encourage and sustain research on biology teaching and learning and implementation of evidence-based teaching and learning.

BERG was founded by faculty at the UW and has expanded to include participation of postdocs and graduate students and other regional university and college faculty. BERG meetings are held weekly during the academic year.  Importantly, BERG encourages participation of undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows and these members have now become an integral and essential part of the group. BERG goals include the creation of new methods for teaching Biology, production of research based teaching methods, development of testable hypotheses concerning student learning in Biology, creation of guidelines for conducting rigorous biology education research, providing a forum for discussion of effective teaching methods and fostering a diverse network to facilitate research collaborations.

  •  Please share information about and links to other local and regional groups in this blog discussion.
  • Share your questions about creating a local community of practice.

Some advice for starting a local community of practice:

  • Have explicit, shared values.
  • Use a “collaborative bottom-up approach” Kajiura (2014).
  • Practice “diffuse authority” Kajiura (2014) but there needs to be one person who can send weekly reminders and encourage different members to lead weekly discussions.
  • Create and maintain “community spaces” Kajiura (2014). Use a web-site to house papers, calendar, participants, COP description and other information & resources.
  • Have a list-serve so participants can easily email each other.
  • Post meetings times, locations and topics (and/or presenters) at the beginning of the term/semester.

Things to avoid

  • Don’t rely on a single individual to organize, present or provide expertise.
  • Don’t compete with departmental seminars and critical meetings.
  • Don’t spam your list-serve.
  • Don’t intimidate: disagree without being disagreeable and be patient with DBER & SOTL novices (sometimes these are the senior faculty and sometimes they are students).
  • Don’t be exclusive in your participants or your readings.
    • If you set up a COP for faculty and postdocs don’t exclude graduate students or undergraduate researchers from this group.
    • A biology education journal club should be open to literature from cognitive science, physics education and other relevant disciplines.

Kajiura, L., Smit, J., Montpetit, C., Kelly, T., Waugh, J., Rawle, F., Clark, J., Neumann, M., and French, M. 2014. Knowledge mobilization across boundaries with the use of novel organizational structures, conferencing strategies, and technological tools: The Ontario Consortium of Undergraduate Biology Educators (oCUBE) Model. Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching. Volume 7, No. 1.  Available from: http://celt.uwindsor.ca/ojs/leddy/index.php/CELT/article/view/3990

Wenger, E. Communities of Practice: A Brief Introduction. 2006 [cited 2014 November 25]; Available from: http://wenger-trayner.com/theory/

 

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Mary Pat Wenderoth is a Principal Lecturer in the Biology Department at the University of Washington (UW) where she teaches animal physiology courses and conducts biology education research on how students learn biology. She received the UW Distinguished Teaching Award in 2001and has served as the co-director of the UW Teaching Academy. She is a co-founder of the UW Biology Education Research Group (UW BERG) and the national Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER). She has served as a facilitator at the HHMI Summer Institute for Undergraduate Biology Education since 2007 and co-led the Northwest Regional Summer Institutes from 2011 to 2013. Mary Pat earned her B.S. in Biology from the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C., a M.S. in Women’s Studies from George Washington University, a M.S. in Exercise Physiology from Purdue University and her Ph.D. in Physiology from Rush University in Chicago.

 

 

Jenny-Blog-Photo

 

Jenny L. McFarland is tenured faculty and former department chair in the Biology Department at the Edmonds Community College (EdCC) where she teaches human anatomy & physiology and introductory biology courses and conducts biology education research on student learning or core concepts in physiology. She received the EdCC Echelbarger-Sherman Exceptional Faculty Award in 2013. She is a PULSE (Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education) Leadership Fellow (selected 2012). As a PULSE fellow and a steering committee member on several NSF-funded projects, she advocates for excellence in undergraduate physiology, biology and STEM education at 2-year and 4-year institutions. She has served as a facilitator for the NW PULSE workshops to transform life science departments in the Pacific Northwest. Jenny earned her B.S. in Aeronautics & Astronautics Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in Physiology & Biophysics and Physiological Psychology from the University of Washington in Seattle.