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J Undergrad Neurosci Educ. 2017 Nov 15;16(1):A102-A111. eCollection 2017 Fall.

An Integrative Approach to STEM Concepts in an Introductory Neuroscience Course: Gains in Interdisciplinary Awareness.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA 01610.
2
Department of Biology, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA 01610.
3
Department of Chemistry, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA 01610.
4
Department of Physics, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA 01610.

Abstract

Neuroscience is an integrative discipline for which students must achieve broad-based proficiency in many of the sciences. We are motivated by the premise that student pursuit of proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) can be supported by awareness of the application of knowledge and tools from the various disciplines for solving complex problems. We refer to this awareness as "interdisciplinary awareness." Faculty from biology, chemistry, mathematics/computer science, physics, and psychology departments contributed to a novel integrative introductory neuroscience course with no pre-requisites. STEM concepts were taught in "flipped" class modules throughout the semester: Students viewed brief videos and completed accompanying homework assignments independently. In subsequent class meetings, students applied the STEM concepts to understand nervous system structure and function through engaged learning activities. The integrative introduction to neuroscience course was compared to two other courses to test the hypothesis that it would lead to greater gains in interdisciplinary awareness than courses that overlap in content but were not designed for this specific goal. Data on interdisciplinary awareness were collected using previously published tools at the beginning and end of each course, enabling within-subject analyses. Students in the integrative course significantly increased their identification of scientific terms as relevant to neuroscience in a term-discipline relevance survey and increased their use of terms related to levels of analysis (e.g., molecular, cellular, systems) in response to an open-ended prompt. These gains were seen over time within the integrative introduction to neuroscience course as well as relative to the other two courses.

KEYWORDS:

STEM; diversity; engaged learning; flipped classroom; inclusion; integrative education; intended learning outcome; interdisciplinary; introductory neuroscience

PMID:
29371849
PMCID:
PMC5777831

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