Advances in genomics and bioinformatics have led to the rapid proliferation of dedicated research laboratories, summer institutes, and academic degree programs. Individual biologists, working groups, and national research networks are focusing their attention on the integration of genomics and bioinformatics lessons into undergraduate curricula. The first goal of this project is to: (1) assemble genomics and bioinformatics assessment items and tools into a single, freely-accessible, and user-friendly format; (2) summarize validity and reliability data for existing measures; (3) construct, evaluate, and revise a suite of supplemental genomics assessment tools in four areas: knowledge, affect, performance, and faculty assessment; (4) disseminate this genomics education concept inventory through SERC, the DANSER project, and the FIRST project, and (5) field test the inventory items for utility, validity, and generalizability by using a newly developed, HHMI-funded interdisciplinary genomics curriculum at Barnard College as a test case.
A mixed-methods (i.e., quantitative and qualitative) quasi-experimental design is being used to assess the impact of the curriculum intervention at Barnard. The following five methodologies are being employed, using a longitudinal study design, to assess the impact of the genomics curriculum relative to the traditional biology curriculum: (1) a Likert-scale questionnaire, (2) the Student Assessed Learning Gains (SALG) anonymous online instrument, (3) concept mapping of content knowledge, (4) the CTT (Critical Thinking Test), and (5) semi-structured, transcribed oral interviews by an independent researcher. These data permit methodological triangulation of results. The overarching research question for goal two of this project is: Does a 4-year undergraduate genomics curriculum pathway produce significantly different performance skills, attitudes, knowledge, and dispositions toward biological research compared to a traditional 4-year biology pathway in women science students?
The new fields of genomics and bioinformatics are transforming the biological sciences. Nevertheless, scientists and science educators have yet to (1) identify the key elements of these new scientific disciplines or (2) develop assessment tools (or "tests") capable of measuring the degree to which undergraduate students are learning these new ideas as they progress through degree programs. This project used a variety of methods to empirically establish the core elements of genomics and bioinformatics and design and validate an assessment instrument capable of measuring student learning in these new areas. Specific methods including surveying expert scientists, performing reviews of instructional materials, interviewing students, administering items to diverse samples of students, and performing statistical analyses of response patterns. The new test was piloted at liberal arts colleges and public universities and found to be a valid indicator of student understanding. The instrument may be used to establish the degree to which undergraduate students are learning up-to-date concepts in important new areas of the biological sciences. The intellectual merit of the project includes the development of tools that can help educators make evidence-based decisions about student learning outcomes in important STEM subjects, and the broader impacts of the project include the development of measurement tools that validly assess learning in diverse populations, including women and underrepresented minorities.