Track

Research Proposal / Learning Theories and Pedagogy

Proposal Abstract

In a required communication course for all biology majors at Tennessee Technological University, the focus has traditionally been on professional development and career readiness. On the surface, the previous course structure prepared students to enter the job market. However, on closer review, many students struggled with independent thinking and speaking. Following course redesign using inquiry-guided learning models and student surveys, alternative assignments based on students’ abilities and goals were introduced. Using interdisciplinary teams to competitively debate an open-ended question, students received opportunities to improve leadership, teamwork, and communication skills, i.e., to fledge from the academic nest to the job market.

Proposal Description

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the top five qualities sought by employers across all majors in 2015 were related to thinking, planning, problem-solving, learning, and communicating. However, employers have increasingly complained about a lack of critical thinking and soft skills among graduates across disciplines. Similar deficits were observed among some biology majors at Tennessee Technological University, prompting a redesign of a required science-based communication course.

The course was reviewed to determine activities and assignments which had a clear purpose in guiding the students’ professional preparedness. Pre- and post-surveys were taken by students regarding their perceptions of the course and their career readiness. An inquiry-based learning model was used to provide the foundation for a team project with an interdisciplinary component with one student acting as team leader. Students were given the task of developing a creative open-ended question, choosing a viewpoint to support, and presenting a researched and organized response. Other faculty and/or graduate students that have previously been involved in judging student presentations for this course will participate in the review of redesigned course products and provide feedback. As of this writing, the research is in progress; some data from the first completed semester using the new course design will be available by the conference date. A comparison will be given of the previous and current syllabi with a detailed explanation of the activities within the team project. Pre- and post-survey results also will be presented.

Session Format

Poster Session

Publication Type and Release Option

Presentation (Open Access)

 
Mar 30th, 9:00 AM Mar 30th, 9:45 AM

Preparing Students to Leave the Academic Nest: Using Creative Inquiry to Develop Fledglings

In a required communication course for all biology majors at Tennessee Technological University, the focus has traditionally been on professional development and career readiness. On the surface, the previous course structure prepared students to enter the job market. However, on closer review, many students struggled with independent thinking and speaking. Following course redesign using inquiry-guided learning models and student surveys, alternative assignments based on students’ abilities and goals were introduced. Using interdisciplinary teams to competitively debate an open-ended question, students received opportunities to improve leadership, teamwork, and communication skills, i.e., to fledge from the academic nest to the job market.