The purpose of this project is to develop a sequence of chemistry courses for pre-health students as a pathway to biochemistry that builds a strong foundation of molecular understanding and scientific reasoning skills. This three-semester course sequence will align with the premedical competencies outlined in the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC)-HHMI report on Scientific Foundation for Future Physicians, which calls for stronger connections between course content and the underlying principles in health and medicine. To achieve the project's purpose, the approach will be to make the courses personally meaningful, thereby stimulating deep student interest and promoting curiosity-driven learning. Scientific evidence shows that people who feel curious devote more attention to an activity, process information more critically, remember information more effectively and persist on task until goals are met.
To execute this personally meaningful approach, the courses will contextualize chemistry concepts around the theme of Molecular Etiology (ME). The ME theme is the idea that observable or probable traits, conditions, characteristics or activities are understood through chemistry-based interpretations. Learning will be made personally meaningful by enabling the students, if they so choose, to investigate their own molecular make-up; that is, helping them understand how their own phenotype relates to their own personal genetic data. Acquiring personal genetic data is affordable and is expected to become an important part of the healthcare industry. For this reason, there is a growing need to educate prospective healthcare professionals in the interpretation of genetic data and the role of genotype-phenotype association in ME. Self-investigation will equip students with knowledge and hands-on experiences to help them understand key medical principles, navigate more confidently through their future professional careers and lead change in the healthcare field.
The educational hypotheses under investigation stem from the belief that stronger connection fosters greater learning. The first hypothesis is that learning gains are greater when the content covered has personal meaning. This is where the genotyping experience will be used – to test whether greater gains in learning and curiosity are realized in the genotyped students relative to a control group that learns course material without studying their own genetic data. The second hypothesis is that learning gains are greater if the subject being studied is connected to knowledge that students previously acquired in a closely aligned subject. In particular, Chemistry is related to Molecular Genetics and Molecular Biology using the ME theme, so to test this hypothesis, the learning gains of chemistry students who take a traditional sequence will be compared to those in the sequence of chemistry courses that adhere to the ME theme.
Success of the project will leave behind three legacies. (1) Understanding ME – A three-semester sequence of chemistry courses taught to pre-professional students using the ME theme. The course sequence is intended to fast-track pre-med students into biochemistry while building molecular know-how and developing complex problem solving skills. The course content will be integrated with cross-departmental curricula in the life, agricultural and applied health sciences. (2) Discovering ME – An interactive eText with instructions, examples and resources that guides students with a streamlined ME workflow from condition / trait to bonds-and-atoms. (3) Looking at ME – Disseminated knowledge on the design, implementation and assessment of personalizing instruction with students' own genetic data, thereby bringing immediate application of course concepts and principles to the student's learning.
As of January 2015