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AAA3.08 - Can a National Network of Undergraduate Research Directors Validate a Set of Professional Skills-Building Science Communication Workshops? 
December 1, 2014   3:45pm - 4:00pm

The presentation of research is an integral aspect of professional science and engineering practice. Successful development and delivery of a good research presentation or poster can help students draw meaning and context from their weeks of immersion in laboratory activities and provide them with a sense of reward and accomplishment through sharing with mentors and peers. TheResearch Experience for Undergraduates Science Communication Workshop (REU SCW) is designed to: (1) Encourage students to explore the broader context of their research; (2) Guide them in developing professional science communication skills; and (3) Enhance their confidence in pursuing careers in science and in speaking about science in a variety of settings. The REU SCW was develped at the Museum of Science, Boston (MOS), in collaboration with two NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers. It is designed to integrate into the 8-12 week trajectory of a typical undergraduate research experience program, with two sessions, one near the start of the research experience and one close to the end, when students are preparing final reports and presentations on their projects. Workshop pedagogy emphasizes small-group practice and teaches students methods of improving their own communciation skills while also providing peer mentoring and feedback within a supportive learning community. The program has been rigorously evaluated and improved over a ten-year period. The NSF Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network supported the development of a planning and implementation guide with extensive resources, hand-outs, and multimedia, and an implementation training workshop for education directors at university research centers. The REU SCW program has now been implemented multiple years at a dozen universities across the U.S., and MOS has facilitiated IRB-approved online collection of student evaluation and impact data across all sites. This data has been fed back to each program provider on an ongoing basis to aid in site implementation improvement and has also been aggregated from all sites to gain knowledge and insight into the evolution of trends in prior undergraduate experience in science communication over time, impacts of the program on student science communication skills and self-confidence (as reported by students and faculty mentors/advisors), and implementation insights gained from undergraduate research directors. This paper will build on reports delivered at previous stages of these efforts [C.L. Alpert, “Beyond ‘Train-the-Trainer:’ A Prelim. Report on a New Scaffolding Strategy for Sci. Comm. Worksh. Dissem.,” MRS Online Proc.1532 (2013), and C.L. Alpert et al, “Tackling Science Communication with REU Students: A Formative Evaluation of a Collaborative Approach,” Mat.Ed., eds. Patterson et al, MRS Symp.Proc.1234 (2009)], and will address aggregated outcomes across the student cohorts over both a three- and five- year period, including the summer 2014 implementation.

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