We continue our review of the 2011-2012 CETL Grants with a discussion with Eron Higgins (Natural Science, Downtown). While many of the projects conducted at SPC explore critical thinking, Higgin’s project – Enhancing Student Experience and Equity Through Laboratory Development – addresses another important but sometimes unrealized area of education.
Describe your project. Did the project end up being significantly different then the original plan and why?
My project was to improve the downtown campus lab for Earth Science students by purchasing lab equipment and supplies in an effort to make it more comparable to labs on larger campuses. The project stuck to its original proposed goals.
What was the chief accomplishment of your project? What problem did you solve?
The chief accomplishment was to improve the available lab materials and supplies, thereby improving the student experience in Earth Science Lab. The problem solved was that Downtown students were having an inferior lab experience due to a lack of supplies and equipment.
What were the results? Did you see a numeric increase, a qualitative improvement?
The results have been increased enrollment in my Earth Science Lab sections over the last two semesters. There was also a qualitative improvement shown through the results of student surveys taken prior to the start of the semester and at the end of the semester. The survey results showed that students found their experience in the Downtown lab comparable to their experiences on other campuses.
See the specific results in this PowerPoint – Post Project Results Enhancing Student Experience
Did YOU learn anything from the project? Did you make any changes to your teaching style or content?
I learned that students regard the laboratory experience as being very important to learning science. Students expect their experience to be the same, if not better, on smaller campuses because they feel they’re getting more personal attention. Also, students responded that the instructor is the most important component of a lab, over the textbook and laboratory equipment.
Can another teacher use your project? How could they implement your learning?
Other instructors are more than welcome to use the results of this project in designing and running their laboratory courses, whether it’s trying to bring a more personal approach to large labs or improving the experience in labs on smaller campuses.
Do you have plans for a follow-up project/additional research? If you did a grant again, what would you do differently?
I am considering doing a similar follow-up project on a specific component of the lab: the field research project. I would like to closely monitor the field research project from one semester to another, making changes according to specific observations, student work, and survey results.
Thank you, Eron, for sharing your insights into the rewards and challenges of working in smaller educational environments!
SPC is unique in that we have so many campuses, each very different. Share your thoughts on your campus and its rewards and challenges in the comments sections below.