Biology education research

Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis (QUBES)

As a quantitative biologist, it is very important to me that we effectively teach quantitative content to our undergraduate biology majors.  As part of my work as a postdoc with the Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis (QUBES) project, I have had the opportunity to work with faculty across the country who want to improve the teaching of quantitative content in their biology courses.  As a QUBES postdoctoral fellow, I have developed and implemented in-person workshops centered on teaching materials at meetings such as the Ecological Society of America meeting and the Life Discovery Biology Education Conference.  I have also led and co-led online faculty mentoring networks, in collaboration with partners such as DryadLab, the educational extension of the Dryad data repository, and the Education branch of the Ecological Society of America.

If you are interested in participating in a QUBES faculty mentoring network on topics such as using ecological data in the undergraduate classroom or interventions to improve students’ math attitudes and anxiety, check out the QUBES homepage for a list of upcoming networks, or send me an email at arietta.flemingdavies”at”gmail.com.

Discipline based education research in math anxiety in biology students:

One common barrier to success in undergraduate biology and retention in STEM in general is math anxiety.  By reducing working memory, math anxiety can significantly decrease math performance (Faust et al. 1996, Ashcraft and Kirk 2001). Groups that are underrepresented in the sciences are particularly vulnerable to negative effects of math anxiety or low math confidence on persistence in the Biology major.
My previous postdoctoral advisor, Jeremy Wojdak, and I are in the second year of an NSF-funded 3-year project to develop out-of-class materials to improve biology students’ attitudes towards quantitative content, with the goal of improving performance and retention in Biology.  The materials will use a range of techniques shown to help alleviate math anxiety and improve math performance, such as metacognitive activities in which students reflect on their own problem solving strategies or algorithms.  Students will also use novel biofeedback activities such as measuring their own galvanic skin response (as in a ‘lie detector’ test) to quantify their stress levels when engaging in quantitative content, with the ultimate goal of reducing their physical stress response to math.  For more information, please visit biomaap.org.