'SI-QEP-LAMP' Tripod strategy- DU's blueprint to the future.

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Title of Abstract: 'SI-QEP-LAMP' Tripod strategy- DU's blueprint to the future.

Name of Author: Julie Basu Ray
Author Company or Institution: Dillard University
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum, Faculty Development, Introductory Course(s)
Approaches: Mixed Approach
Keywords: Supplemental instruction, critical thinking, research, recruitment, retention

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Dillard University, New Orleans is positioned uniquely to address the underrepresentation of African Americans in STEM fields. The Tripod Strategy, comprising the Supplemental Instruction (SI) program, the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) and the Louisiana Alliance for Minority Participation (LAMP) program plays a key role in adding value and variety to a student’s educational experience in Biology, the second largest department at DU. The SI program provides an additional support system to students, through peer-facilitated weekly review sessions for freshmen taking historically difficult courses such as General Biology. The goal of QEP is to ensure the success of students by enhancing communication skills grounded in critical thinking. Through curricular engagement, co-curricular and multi-disciplinary learning experiences, students learn how to offer solutions to real-world problems by reading analytically, writing critically and speaking and presenting effectively. LAMP provides opportunities for continued engagement in research and creative work with faculty members outside the classroom.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: SI targets freshmen taking Gen Bio courses with a high rate of D/ F grades and withdrawals. Trained student SI leaders, who have demonstrated competence in this course, attend class sessions and conduct 3 out-of-class 50-minute sessions per week. SI attending students learn note taking, questioning techniques, problem-solving and test preparation. Freshmen cohorts, engaged in learning communities, focus on an integrated assignment with a theme that surrounds a global issue in QEP. The same topic is linked to the curriculum of Biology, Math, English, and First Year Experience (FYE) courses. The 2012-13 QEP theme was: “The Impact of the Presidential Election on Healthcare and Gun Control.” In Fall students learnt scientific data analysis through comparison of health statistics from different nations, wrote a report on their view on health care policies and uploaded a video-recording of this view as a hypothetical presidential candidate’s speech. In Spring students studied stem cell biology and honed their critical thinking skills by rationalizing whether federal funding should be used for stem cell research. Upper level Microbiology and Environmental Biology course students addressed how environmental monitoring should be maintained in each stem cell bank that would minimize the introduction, generation and retention of microorganisms. The theme for 2013-14 is “Diseases and Social discrimination”. Students would learn about HIV while studying viruses, drug design in Chemistry and learn about its social perspectives in FYE seminars. In Spring students would take a similar approach in learning about cancer (cell division). Guest speakers, lab visits are other activities. LAMP supports research experience incorporation into undergraduate education where a few students work with a faculty research advisor. Students receive an annual stipend, opportunities for conference presentation, academic tutoring, summer internship placement, graduate guidance and GRE preparation.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: The success of the newly implemented SI program will depend on a) increase in the number of students availing this over the next 2-3 years, b) improvement in individual and general performance of the courses with SI versus those without. The QEP is evaluated through assignments designed to assess students’ written and oral communication skills and their critical thinking abilities. Feedback from the faculty and students through institution-based and national surveys would help improve the strength of both the SI and QEP programs. DU regularly administers the College Student Inventory (CSI) which assesses students’ strengths, weaknesses, and needs, alerting the faculty regarding those at risk for academic/personal challenges. The LAMP program evaluates increased student interest in applying, successful completion of research project, conference presentations, and increased number of students entering graduate schools.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: The Tripod strategy has provided students with a challenging curriculum, training them for the 21st century. For the last two semesters, at least 10 SI leaders have helped ~ 40 students, to consistently score a higher grade compared to others. Since the sessions integrate how-to-learn with what-to-learn and as the students develop a better understanding of course content and more effective ways of studying, they are expected to benefit in other higher-level Biology courses also. We expect at least a 30% increase in student recruitment in the coming year. More than 20 faculty members are involved in the QEP which affects > 200 new students recruited in STEM fields every year. At DU from 1996, LAMP, one of 34 National Science Foundation Alliance Programs nationwide, has benefited nearly 10-15 students per year through faculty-mentored research. This program allows conference attendance for at least 2-3 faculties per year and also helps them achieve scholarly and research outcomes thus supporting their career and personal development. Our Spring 2012 Pre-Post GRE Course exams have indicated significant gains in scores. At least 120 LAMP scholars have enrolled in Master’s Program and 12 completed their PhD so far. The students have won regional and national competitions like the Emerging Researchers National Conference, the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, besides mandatory presentation at the on-campus conference. The incorporation of authentic, semi-structured research experiences through LAMP in the Biology curriculum allows students to develop investigative skills and experience discovery-driven learning.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: DU faces usual challenges such as drastic budget reductions, rising costs and associated student debt, and increased scrutiny by accreditors. For the SI program the major challenge has been recruiting students. To encourage participation, students attending ten or more SI sessions were awarded bonus points for their final grade. Faculty involvement often becomes a key issue for QEP. Today we cannot consider ourselves “solely as teachers in our own disciplines” but have to play a role in improving students’ reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. A well-coordinated and systematic faculty development program has helped overcome faculty frustrations. LAMP faculty are encouraged to have flexible research hours and to use web and other tools to allow increased communication and engage more part-time and commuter students who have additional time constraints.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The SI-Quality-LAMP has increased Biology recruitment and retention with ~80% increase in graduate school enrollment. The university is committed to disseminate this strategy and increase high impact educational practices including undergraduate research, internships, capstone courses and projects and learning communities.

Acknowledgements: Dr. Dorothy Smith, Dean of General Studies, DU Dr. Phyllis Dawkins, Provost, DU Dr. A. Darwish, Associate Provost and LAMP Director, DU Dr. Carla Morelon, Ex-QEP and SI Coordinator, DU