BOLD Fellow Kendra Oliver Presented on Student Blogs at 2016 Experimental Biology Conference
Kendra Oliver, a PhD student in Pharmacology and a CFT BOLD Fellow, presented a poster on her BOLD project at the 2016 Experimental Biology conference in San Diego in April. Her poster, entitled “Probing the use of web-logs (Blogs) to promote student ownership,” presented her research on an online learning module she created through the Center for Teaching’s BOLD program with her faculty mentor John Wikswo, Professor of Physics. The project investigated the effectiveness of using student blogs to promote student ownership in two years of a biology honors course.
Student ownership refers to the amount of investment learners make in topics they are learning and the methods by which they acquire the knowledge. Building student ownership significantly factors into education and a successful educational experience. Ownership in education has been related to student’s choices, engagement, emotional involvement, and personal connectivity. Ownership as a concept integrates personal responsibility with commitment to and identification with the work conducted in the educational setting.
Kendra received supportive feedback at the conference. She said, “This conference is filled with scientists who want to hear about what’s new in science. Many also have teaching responsibilities that come along with their positions. Most often, I would talk with people about my pharmacology research and then bring them over to the education poster and discuss those findings. Most people were very impressed with the amount of quantitative and rhetorical analyses that went into designing the blog and the student ownership approach.”
Although there was another poster on using digital media in undergraduate courses, she explained, “most of the posters were outcomes based rather than interventional. My poster was unique in that it showed a technique to promote student engagement in real time as compared to only examining the end results.”
In reflecting on her research, Kendra was surprised at how rigorous teaching-as-research projects are: “In science research, one begins their day knowing that in all likelihood their assumptions will be proven wrong. For whatever reason, I did not view the education research in this same light. I thought that learning was fairly standard process with only minor alterations being made to overall course delivery. However, during my fellowship in the BOLD program I had to repeatedly question my findings and interpretations. This is very similar to my dissertation work, which was surprising to encounter in an educational setting. I realized that education and learning are evolving ideologies that are constantly being refined. More importantly, it is crucial to understand and robustly analyze the data from educational research as critically as any other science. The most difficult aspect of this experience was figuring out what the acquired data meant within the classroom and how to implement changes. I believe overall this made me a more critical thinker and a better scientist because of the analytical conviction that went into this project.”
Kendra is excited to use similar research methods in her future teaching: “I have learned a lot during my BOLD fellowship. In particular, I now see the numerous possibilities to assess, test and interoperate student course material and use it to improve the educational experience.”