Key Teaching and Learning Strategies and Practices in LBC
Several such strategies and practices have been integral elements of "the LBC experience" for many years, embodied in the structure of the LBC curriculum, the research-validated teaching practices employed by our faculty, and the nature of our living-learning community.
Promote active learning
In each of our courses, LBC students actively participate in various hands-on ways, many of which involve peer collaboration. These include such activities as problem-solving, model creation, and group discussion. Innovating and experimenting with different strategies for promoting student engagement is a cornerstone of LBC culture. Some recent innovations to promote active learning include the creation of the INQUIRE curriculum for at-risk students and the construction of a REAL classroom in Holmes Hall. LBC faculty regularly contribute to the scholarship of teaching and learning
to disseminate our advances to STEM educators around the world. Our commitment to promoting active learning and attending to students' prior knowledge is codified in the instruments we use to evaluate our teaching practices: the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol
and the Student Assessment of Learning Gains
Engage students in authentic scientific practices
A hallmark of the LBC experience is that students learn about the historical, philosophical, and sociological (HPS) dynamics of science while they are performing real science in their inquiry-based science lab courses. Our HPS courses
help students learn about the complex reality of science, which extends far beyond the rather simplistic picture portrayed in many science textbooks. Among other things, our HPS courses focus on the historical trajectory of different scientific disciplines and their associated rules of evidence and preferred methods; the logic of theory creation and hypothesis testing; and the interrelationships between science and other major institutions in society (e.g., religion, the economy, the government). Even more important, our introductory biology
courses utilize inquiry-based labs that emphasize the development of research and scientific reasoning skills rather than merely confirming pre-existing "right" answers. As such, the research in our biology, chemistry and physics labs resembles that which is being performed in actual scientific laboratories across campus. A prime example of this is our recently revised biology curriculum that integrates ecological/organismal biology and cellular/molecular biology into a full-year experience. The long-term inquiry-based biology labs are partially based around two research systems (an indoor freshwater ecosystem and an outdoor bird feeding system) that support student projects at multiple scales.
Provide students with real research experiences
After strengthening their research skills in our inquiry-based biology
, chemistry and physics labs, many LBC students continue on to perform real scientific research during their undergraduate years. The LBC faculty are committed to getting more students involved with actual scientific research beyond their required coursework or Honors option projects. In addition to sharing information about funding and research opportunities within LBC and across campus
, some STEM and HPS faculty include LBC students in their research. These collaborations often lead to findings that students present at the LBC Research Symposium
, the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum
, or at various regional or national scholarly conferences. LBC faculty also regularly co-author scholarly publications with their student collaborators IIn recent years, we created a specific course (LB 494: Undergraduate Research) that allows LBC students to get academic credit for selected research experiences.
Emphasize the relevance of STEM to the wider society
Across our curriculum, students gain a deeper understanding of how science and society are interrelated. Much of the content of our biology, chemistry and physics courses draws upon real-world examples and applications, while the inquiry-based projects in our STEM labs often focus on real-world problem-solving. All of our HPS courses aim to help students better understand the key ways in which science influences and is influenced by different institutions and forces in society.
Maintain strong student-faculty connections
The nearly 50-year history of LBC as a living-learning community has created a strong culture of curiosity, inclusivity, responsibility, and leadership
. In collaboration with our partners in the Residence Education and Housing Services
, LBC administrators, faculty, and staff work hard to provide our students with intellectual, social, and emotional support that we know is crucial for their development as lifelong learners and citizens. LBC students often develop supportive relationships with LBC faculty and staff because of our relatively small class sizes, the close proximity of our professional offices, and our high degree of approachability and enthusiasm for teaching, learning, and advising. In recent years, we have made notable advances in providing greater support for at-risk students through our INQUIRE curriculum.
Key Skills and Experiences Emphasized in LBC
Through these strategies and practices and more, the LBC curriculum provides multiple opportunities for our students to strengthen key skills and gain impactful experiences that STEM employers and educators have identified as crucial for future success.
Future employers and educators expect that STEM graduates have:
Strong intellectual skills in written and oral communication, problem-solving, and analytical reasoning
Across each of their introductory science labs, LBC students gain much experience writing original, journal-style laboratory reports that illuminate their scientific reasoning skills. In each of their HPS courses, LBC students further develop their writing skills via short papers and longer researched essays. We recently created a Writing Studio program to provide additional opportunities for freshmen in LB 133 (Introduction to HPS) to improve their writing skills early in their undergraduate career. Through actively participating in their biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics
and HPS courses, students hone their problem-solving, analytical reasoning, and argumentation skills. Individual or group oral presentations are components of many LBC courses, and approximately 700 students present posters and deliver oral presentations at the annual LBC Research Symposium.
Social skills such as leadership and teamwork capabilities refined via collaborative experiences
All of our biology, chemistry and physics labs require collaborative teamwork, and many of our HPS courses require the completion of long-term collaborative projects. LBC faculty often use special software
to create our collaborative teams. Our existing classrooms and labs readily allow for productive collaborative experiences, but we are also building a REAL classroom
that is specifically designed to more effectively facilitate collaborative work. Some LBC students get further opportunities to hone their leadership skills by become undergraduate learning assistants (UGLAs) in our science or mathematics courses.
Interdisciplinary course and/or research experiences
Our LBC curriculum is intentionally designed to foster an interdisciplinary understanding of science. Our STEM faculty regularly demonstrate the theoretical, methodological, and substantive connections across STEM disciplines and also often integrate historical, philosophical, and sociological content into their courses. Our HPS program is inherently interdisciplinary, as our HPS faculty teach key insights integrated across selected social science and humanities disciplines. Some of our courses in the conventional classroom and most in our study abroad programs
are taught by teams of LBC faculty from different disciplines. These courses offer rich opportunities for students to learn how different disciplines approach compelling research questions. Through our annual LBC Speaker Series, students hear scholars from different disciplines present their insights on a common scientific topic. At the end of their undergraduate career, LBC students complete a capstone course (LB 492: Senior Seminar), which intentionally helps students integrate and apply insights from their earlier biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and HPS courses.
Learning experiences outside of the conventional classroom
In addition to facilitating much hands-on active learning in our courses and labs, the LBC faculty has increased our efforts in recent years to provide more opportunities for similar experiences outside of the classroom. More HPS faculty now include some service learning component in their courses to have students apply key course insights while meaningfully engaging with the wider community. As discussed above, one of our College goals is to help more LBC students participate in undergraduate research
. To this end, we created LB 494: Undergraduate Research to allow LBC students to get academic credit for selected research experiences. We also offer LB 493: Field Experience for students to get academic credit for selected STEM- or HPS-related internship experiences. LBC students also may gain valuable learning experiences via participation in one or more of our registered student organizations in LBC
International/global experiences (e.g., study abroad, proficiency with multiple languages, ability to work with and learn from people from other cultures)
In recent years, LBC has bolstered our own short-term study abroad program offerings, providing opportunities to learn STEM and HPS with LBC faculty around the world: physics and history of physics in Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland; art and science in France; biodiversity and conservation in Panama; ecology and culture in Nicaragua; the Darwinian revolution in England; and biology, ecology, and evolution in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. In addition, LBC students may apply to participate in other study abroad programs offered at MSU
, especially those science-focused programs offered through the College of Natural Science
. Further, LBC students may take some of their STEM and HPS courses via participating in semester-long exchange programs at selected universities in Australia, England, New Zealand, and Sweden.
Outcomes and Futures of LBC Students
The graduation rates of LBC students surpass those of the broader MSU community and of STEM majors nationally. The six-year graduation rates at MSU for the LBC classes entering as freshmen between 2001 and 2006 were between 82% and 86%. This compares to 74-77% for MSU overall
and 41% for STEM majors across the nation
The figure below illustrates how the incoming class of 2006 progressed through MSU in six years. Impressively, about 72% of incoming LBC students persisted in the STEM fields.
For each of the graduating classes of 2008 to 2010, nearly 80% of LBC graduates have continued on to some form of post-baccalaureate education. Many of the rest secure gainful employment in various STEM-related occupations
Source: Dr. Ryan Sweeder, 2012