Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Using Service-Learning to Engage Students from Diverse Backgrounds in STEM

Biochemistry professor Ken Cornell championed efforts to involve Boise State University students in service-learning with traditionally under-served populations in STEM, through a partnership with TRIOTRIO held its annual Student Leadership Conference on the Boise State University campus, October 4-5th. Boise State University professors saw the Student Leadership Conference as an opportunity to engage their students in service-learning and expose TRIO students to high quality STEM experiences.  

Dr. Ken Cornell’s CHEM 431 - Biochemistry Lab students developed activities for TRIO students to engage in learning about medical drug resistance and development research. A student from Dr. Cheryl Jorcyk’s BIOL 441 - Molecular Biology of Cancer class organized a lab experience investigating the molecular biology of cancer. The labs engaged TRIO students in laboratory science research that they would not have otherwise been exposed to until college. Seventy-five TRIO students participated in each of the three labs led by Boise State University students.

Mason Kreamer, from Dr. Cheryl Jorcyk’s class reflected on his service experience, “My service-learning activity with the TRIO students was an amazing experience. The students were great and were really interested in the biology of cancer. I learned a lot and it was a great way for me to gain some teaching experience. I would recommend service-learning to other Boise State University students”.

This model of STEM service-learning provides genuine learning for both Boise State University students who participated in the selection and delivery of the labs and the TRIO students who engaged in rich science experiences. Boise State University students deepened their understanding of the content as they prepared to demonstrated their understanding to the TRIO students, causing them to reflect and reassess their own understanding. This process creates a deeper understanding of the content  As students engage in service-learning they are giving back to their community, while extending what they are learning in the classroom. For these reasons, the National Science Foundation has endorsed service-learning a high impact practice.

-Jill K. Hettinger, Boise State University Service-Learning

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