Helping Undergrads Bloom
From science to social experiences, grant-funded STEM programs provide undergraduates with a valuable foundation for their careers.
Mark T. Stauffer | | Opinion
There is an old saying: "I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand."
Experiential learning has been shown to help students learn concepts much more effectively than simply reading about a subject. Coupling experience with reading then makes what we read more easily understood and meaningful, as many of us appreciate from our own learning experiences. After all, if you do something often enough, that "something" will eventually become second nature.
Most of the learning strategies being developed for today’s undergraduates in the STEM fields, which includes analytical science, are being geared toward a generation of students whose learning abilities are visually based, compared with the reading-based learning of baby boomers (such as I) and previous generations. The technology-oriented society in which we live is partly to thank for this. STEM undergrads today have greater opportunities than their predecessors to engage in experiential learning activities. From journal clubs to undergraduate research experiences, scientific seminars and the formation of scientific learning communities, opportunities abound.
All of these activities are associated with their own benefits for the students. Journal clubs, for instance, allow the students to develop skills for the critical appraisal of published research, while participation in research experiences allows students to gain exposure to scientific practice. What’s more, each of these program elements facilitates social interaction. The only issue is that money is needed to make these helpful undergraduate programs happen.
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