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FaCE-ing the Challenges of Neuroscience Education at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions

This project seeks to bring ACM faculty from five institutions together to identify and develop resources that will strengthen neuroscience education across the ACM through a virtual meeting, multi-day workshop at Luther College, and a follow-up meeting at Beloit College. Each participant will develop and pilot a resource over the course of the grant term and disseminate the results to ACM and other neuroscience communities. A final virtual meeting will conclude the project.

If successful, this project will become the foundation for a subsequent funding application to engage all ACM institutions in a second series.

*Note: Content adapted from original proposal.

Overview

On a 2017 ACM faculty site visit to Amsterdam, the leaders of this proposal recognized the importance of building community around neuroscience.

By studying neuroscience, students develop skills in the natural and social sciences and explore intersections between neuroscience, arts, and humanities. ACM institutions train students to think broadly and across disciplinary boundaries, making them well positioned to offer strong neuroscience programs, but establishing and maintain such a broad program with a smaller number of faculty is difficult.

We seek to overcome this challenge by assembling neuroscience faculty (two virtual, two in-person meetings) to identify challenges and opportunities for successful undergraduate neuroscience education and develop specific resources through contributions from each participating ACM institution.

This model allows us to collaboratively develop resources spanning the neuroscience field, drawing on each faculty member’s disciplinary expertise and experience developing and implementing neuroscience programs.


Goals

Updated May 17, 2018

The primary goal of this project is to share expertise and maximize resources across campuses by creating projects that will require sharing knowledge, equipment and other resources across campuses which collectively reduces institutional costs.

A careful inventory of each participant’s program’s strengths and areas of needed improvement will identify clear opportunities for collaboration as we continue to develop our programs.

The multi-part format of this model will give participants the academic year to implement, reflect on, and assess any strategies identified.

This model will facilitate sustained discussions of approaches, significantly improving implementation of new techniques and pedagogical approaches.

We will create a database describing faculty expertise, specialized equipment, and supplies across the ACM so faculty can learn what is available and initiate collaborations.

 

A primary outcome of this proposal will be to engage undergraduates and the community more deeply with the field of neuroscience, as the core faculty included on the proposed grant have diverse experience and professional connections within the field.

 

Further, we hope to develop long-term collaborative relationships that allow for expanded neuroscience coverage and experience as we strive to prepare our students for meaningful lives as lifelong neuroscience learners and scholars.


Activities

Updated May 17, 2018

These four meetings are designed to identify challenges and opportunities for undergraduate neuroscience education in small, liberal arts college settings.

June 2018 | Meeting 1

An initial virtual meeting will enable identification of common challenges and opportunities and serve to build a workshop agenda. Ahead of the meeting, faculty from each participating institution will be asked to reflect on and share their areas of strength and weakness and to identify areas that they most want to strengthen and that will most benefit from shared expertise.

July 2018 | Meeting 2

A multi-day, in-person workshop at Luther College will focus on developing lecture, lab, and program-level resources. At the end of the workshop, faculty will commit to further developing one or two resources/activities at their home institution during the subsequent year (including a mid-year virtual check-in). 

2018-2019 Academic Year | Meeting 3

An in-person meeting at Beloit College where participants will present their experience with each resource/activity and discuss the best approach to refining and providing access to the resource/activity. 

May/June 2019 | Meeting 4

A final virtual meeting at the end of the second year of the project will provide closure and allow participants to share dissemination efforts and future directions and continue strengthening connections among ACM faculty. 


Dissemination Strategies

Given the limited number of faculty teaching neuroscience courses at each institution, we intend to inform everyone in the ACM for whom neuroscience education is a professional goal of our project’s learnings and outcomes. Leaders of this proposal will serve as ambassadors to proximate ACM institutions to share the outcomes of our work in person. Additional sharing will occur via email and follow-up conversations to communicate how they can access our report and resources.

We plan to share results more broadly through publications such as the Journal for Undergraduate Neuroscience Education (JUNE) or Educational Resources in Neuroscience (ERIN). We will also present at meetings such as the Society for Neuroscience, Experimental Biology, Society for Development Biology, and SENCER – all focusing on undergraduate pedagogy.

If successful, much of the dissemination to ACM campuses will be intrinsic to the project, because we intend to apply for additional funding to include all ACM institutions in a second series of workshops.


Outcomes and Significance

The intended products will be an indexed collection of resources/activities that will be shared among ACM institutions to support neuroscience education. Products envisioned may include (but are not limited to)

  • Individual classroom or lab activities
  • Collaborative data sets
  • Identification of specialized equipment to be shared
  • More economical access to model systems between institutions
  • Assessment tools
  • Advising resources

These shared resources/activities will be developed and used throughout the ACM and enhance neuroscience training for students at all ACM schools. We expect that our experience can serve as a model for future faculty and pedagogy development in neuroscience and other STEM fields. Indeed, we plan to return to the FaCE program for additional funding to expand this opportunity to neuroscience faculty at all ACM institutions. 

Lead Partner
Stephanie Fretham
Professor, Luther College
Biology
frethams@luther.edu
Collaborating partner(s)
Rachel Bergstrom
Assistant Professor, Beloit College
Biology
bergstromr@beloit.edu
Clark Lindgren
Professor, Grinnell College
Neuroscience
lindgren@grinnell.edu
Judith Thorn
Professor, Knox College
Biology
jthorn@knox.edu
Nancy Wall
Professor, Lawrence University
Biology
nancy.a.wall@lawrence.edu
ACM Program Funding
FaCE
Award
$18,402
Funding Cycle
2017-2018
Project Duration
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