Assessing the impact of citizen science on motivation, civic awareness, and understanding of the scientific process in a college microbiology synchronous classroom
Andrews, April Marie
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The COVID-19 pandemic impacted education by removing science from physical classrooms. Adopting remote learning in the fall of 2021 brought new challenges for hands-on discovery and engagement in scientific experiences for my microbiology students. The goal of this study was to assess the impact participation in citizen science had on student motivation, epistemic beliefs toward science, understanding the process of science, as well as value of data contributed by peers. The traditional curriculum was modified to include online collaboration and discussions by students to solve a real-world problem related to a potential public health threat by integrating a series of inquiry-based exercises. The project, Discover the Microbes Within: The Wolbachia Project, allowed students to partner with Vanderbilt University and join researchers from all over the world to study and understand the prevalence of this naturally occurring intracellular parasite. Students spent time exploring their community and collected specimens of native arthropods in and around the Toledo campus of Owens Community College. Students worked in small strategic online breakout groups and took on one of three roles; microbiologist, epidemiologist, and reproductive specialist as part of their research to validate claims regarding health threats. Students prepared and reported back to the class their proposal and task force recommendation to submit to the CDC. Students conducted online activities exploring biotechnology techniques (i.e., polymerase chain reaction, gel electrophoresis, Sanger sequencing, bioinformatics etc.) that promoted scientific literacy and problem-based learning outside a traditional classroom setting. Pre- and post-Likert scales were utilized to compare science motivation, scientific literacy, and opinions toward science and technology. A WebQuest online group evaluation, interviews and written response to discussion board forums were used as data collection instruments. Data were processed using both quantitative and qualitative analysis strategies. Students reported that they felt they were learning the same if not more online compared to face-to-face instruction at the end of the semester. The results suggested that students took a more proactive role in their education, self-identified more as 'real' scientists, and made positive growth with respect to epistemic beliefs toward science when given meaningful examples that make local connections during remote instruction.