Kyla Ross, director of graduate training in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, is supporting a National Science Foundation (NSF) education-focused grant. She is working directly with community college human anatomy and physiology instructors to implement evidence-based instructional practices (EBIPs) in their community college classrooms and study their effectiveness.
Active learning practices supported by research, also described as EBIPs, are absent from many college and university classrooms. Instructors tend to teach how they were taught, and simply “telling” instructors to change how they teach is only minimally effective at changing attitudes and practices.
Ross is working with the NSF-funded Community College Anatomy & Physiology Education Research (CAPER) project. The project hypothesizes that engaging community college instructors in research efforts investigating EBIP effectiveness will create lasting change.
To that end, twelve community college instructors will take an introductory course delivered by the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) introducing EBIPs and educational research techniques and subsequently plan then undertake a research project in their own classroom.
They are supported throughout the project by a team of mentors, data analysis consultants, and writing consultants from a variety of 2-year, 4-year, and research-intensive institutions like Georgia Tech, and will be presenting their work at the annual meeting of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS).
Participants also benefit from interactions with other community college researchers involved in SABER (Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research) and the NSF-funded CC Bio INSITES project. Moreover, the entire team is collaborating on a multi-institutional research project investigating the impact of active learning practices on aspects other than academic performance, such as student anxiety, as well as the influence of individual differences such as social anxiety on the effectiveness of EBIPs. The project has the added benefit of gathering data in community college settings that are often ignored by education researchers.
The CAPER project is unique in that it involves a partnership between larger, four year schools and community colleges—research funding from the NSF typically goes to large research universities. While the CAPER project directly involves educators and researchers, the larger goal is to help students learn anatomy and physiology in classrooms that use best practices in teaching and learning.
“Our research team hopes to provide the necessary support for community college faculty to learn more about EBIPs and successfully implement them in their human anatomy and physiology courses,” said Ross. “We also believe that empowering these faculty to complete teaching as research projects in their own community college classrooms will change their mindset towards instructional excellence.”