Sunday, February 19, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Colin Cleary, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Service learning is a pedagogy that builds reciprocal community relationships into academic coursework. Although service learning is commonly used in many disciplines, it is less frequently adopted in life science disciplines. The exact number of service learning courses offered to life science students has not been systematically investigated, nor is it clear if the benefits of course implementation translate as robustly in STEM disciplines. Unlike other teaching innovations like active learning, very few models exist for life science faculty to emulate when they are considering a transition to this method of teaching and learning. In this present study, we investigated service learning course offerings in life science departments in comparison to non-STEM departments at the University of Connecticut and other selected public research universities, and assessed a cohort of life science students’ histories and experiences with this teaching method. Using a neurobiology writing course at the University of Connecticut as an example, we provide a model for integrating community focused projects into life science curriculum. With respect to student outcomes, we developed pre- and post-course surveys to assess how integrating service learning into life science courses may increase overlap between course content and real-world applications. We also demonstrate a transformation in students’ confidence when discussing discipline specific subject matter within both their discipline and with a broader audience, and evidence of a lasting relationship with community partners extending beyond the end of the semester.