2.1
Student experiences in a research-based laboratory

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Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 1:30 PM
Student experiences in a research-based laboratory
604 (Washington State Convention Center)
Kathleen Quardokus, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI; and S. Lasher-Trapp and E. M. Riggs

Undergraduate science programs want to prepare students to be contributors to a professional society and intelligent consumers of research literature. An understanding of the process of developing new scientific knowledge (including uncertainty in methods, creativity, and communication with peers) is important for achieving these program goals. A new laboratory for sophomores at Purdue University gives every atmospheric science student an opportunity to be an integral part of authentic research projects. The learning objectives of the laboratory include mastering introductory content while learning the research process used by scientists, being exposed to original research topics, and practicing dissemination of research results to other professionals. After receiving approval from Purdue University's Committee on the Use of Human Research Subjects, the pilot offering of the course (Fall 2009) was studied using student interviews taken at the beginning and end of the course, as well as artifacts of student work. The data were analyzed using a phenomenological approach. Open and axial coding revealed themes and trends in the interviews and student work was used to support these themes. Interview questions focused on the students' experiences relating to three main topics: atmospheric science content, the nature of science, and course structure. Results show students benefited from the structure of the course, which used the scaffolding method of teaching (a process of gradually removing instructional supports until all control is transferred to the students) for both content and research process objectives. Students also demonstrated a greater understanding of the nature of science (including the role of creativity in all components of the research process) and the work of atmospheric scientists (including the role of numerical models in research from microphysics cloud models to global climate change models).