AIM-UP! Museum-Based Approaches to Undergraduate Education

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Title of Abstract: AIM-UP! Museum-Based Approaches to Undergraduate Education

Name of Author: Eileen Lacey
Author Company or Institution: University of California, Berkeley
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum
Approaches: Incorporating new online resources, Material Development
Keywords: Museums, biology, evolution, inquiry-based

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Joseph A. Cook, University of New Mexico Stefanie M. Ickert-Bond, University of Alaska Scott Edwards, Harvard University

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Natural history collections provide invaluable resources for efforts to revise undergraduate courses and curricula to incorporate the guidelines and objectives outlined in the Visions and Change (2011) final report. Natural history collections allow teachers and students to explore numerous aspects of biological diversity through direct examination of specimens and as well as through project-based analyses of substantive specimen-associated data sets, thereby promoting inquiry-based exploration of multiple core competencies in biology. AIM-UP! is an NSF-funded Research Coordinating Network (RCN) developed to increase awareness of natural history collections as critical resources for undergraduate education. Specific goals of the network include (1) training undergraduates in museum-based research, (2) developing instructional tools based on freely-accessible online museum databases, (3) informing educators at non-museum institutions regarding the instructional power of museum collections, and (4) interacting with the public to increase awareness of the educational importance of natural history museums.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: Educational institutions are largely unaware of the immense repositories of information contained in natural history collections. To address this gap and to promote enhanced learning opportunities for undergraduates at diverse institutions, AIM-UP! is developing multiple conceptually-based, hypothesis-driven educational modules that allow students to use existing museum databases to explore multiple topics in evolutionary biology, including geographic variation, genome evolution, impacts of climate change, and co-evolutionary relationships among diverse taxa. These modules require students to engage in experiential learning activities that address core competencies in the process of science, quantitative reasoning, and statistical analysis in an interdisciplinary context. Activities can be tailored to specific geographic regions or species to encourage place-based or taxon-focused learning experiences. Currently in year 4 of a 5-year award, AIM-UP! will make these modules freely accessible online within the next 12 months. Modules are being written to be appropriate for 4-year undergraduate institutions as well as junior and community colleges.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Using intensive pre- and post-implementation surveys of student participants as well as extensive interaction with instructors, we will evaluate the effectiveness of these modules in (1) promoting core competencies, (2) enhancing understanding of evolutionary and environmental biology, and (3) increasing awareness of the vast educational potential of natural history museums.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Modules are being incorporated into introductory undergraduate labs at UCB. Inclusion of such activities in upper division biology courses at NM has been shown to have increased student engagement in learning. Through network activities, we have begun to introduce non-museum educators to the importance of museums collections to undergraduate learning.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: The diversity of undergraduate needs, experiences, and backgrounds has led us to expand markedly the diversity of participants in the AIM-UP! network.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: Information regarding AIM-UP! in available online at Modules developed by the network will be made freely available online within the next 24 months. Several peer-reviewed journal articles are planned or in progress that describe the goals and the educational tools developed by AIM-UP!.

Acknowledgements: National Science Foundation RCN-UBE program award NSF-0956129. Our students, who have shared in the excitement of museums-based education.