Emma Newall, Joanne Nicholl UCL Institute of Education;
Zoe Attal, Qi Wang, Jessica Lo, Hebe Manos (BSc Biomedical Sciences students)
Stephen Price (Division of Biosciences)
BIOS0025 is a 45-credit module for final year BSc Biomedical Sciences students to undertake research in education of the Biosciences, particularly at UCL. The module is a collaboration between the UCL Division of Biosciences and the UCL Institute of Education. Students taking the module have two research supervisors, one from Biosciences and one from the IoE, and undertake a mixed-methods (both quantitative and qualitative) research project based around curriculum, pedagogy and assessment of Biosciences as it is taught at UCL. This academic year, four students chose BIOS0025 in their final year and we present their research project concepts based around four interconnected themes. These themes include, student motivation and the impact of the pandemic on student learning online, staff perspectives of UCL Biosciences’ pandemic response, practical learning in Biosciences with limited face to face teaching and how the transition from school to university has been affected by the Covid pandemic.
A joint report by the British Academy and the Royal Society on Harnessing Education Research identified the pipeline of education researchers as being at risk in the very near future. Additionally, it suggested better collaboration between the Social Sciences and the other Sciences in facilitating interdisciplinary research in education. The Division of Biosciences is actively promoting this form of collaborative research and one strand of activity is the BIOS0025 education research project module that final year BSc Biomedical Sciences students may undertake. The project module has been running for two academic years now and a total of eight students have taken the module in that time. Clearly, both cohorts have been impacted by the Covid pandemic but the 2020-21 current cohort had the opportunity to design their research project with largely remote education as a focus of investigation.
Findings over two academic years
Students designed their own projects in consultation with two project supervisors and sought ethical approval for their research. All students were encouraged to undertake a mixed methods quantitative and qualitative approach to their research. Guidance on both research methods and ethics was given throughout the academic year and regular meetings were held between supervisors and students, either individually or as a cohort group. As would be expected, the project students were much more comfortable with quantitative methodologies and so surveys were a major form of data collection and analysis. However, textual analysis of transcripts of interviews or focus groups were also used by some students. This year, we were keen to try to coordinate project ideas with a view to having a coherent view of education provision in the Division of Biosciences. Projects ranged from investigating first year UG students through to finalist UG students. One project, investigating the key drivers and student perceptions of transition from school to University was also directly related to a project undertaken in the 2019-20 academic year, thus allowing a direct comparison between pre-covid and during covid education. Two projects this year were highly influenced by the pandemic in investigating staff attitudes and responses to pandemic teaching and also on practical teaching both face to face and using kits that were supplied to Biosciences students to enable them to undertake experiments at home. The fourth project investigated the impact of the pandemic on student motivation, both to study as well as more broadly. The results of the four projects are now being analysed and we hope to be able to publish the results in a peer reviewed international education research journal.
The BIOS0025 project module offers excellent transferrable skills in addition to direct research skills in social sciences methods and research. The project module is a challenging one as it exposed students to different ways of thinking that are alien to the very quantitative environment that a Biosciences student is immersed in from the beginning of their degree. We hope to be able to expand the project module to attract more students to undertake education research and to be able to train more Bioscience colleagues to feel comfortable supervising student projects that are at the intersection of the Biosciences and Education research cultures.
If there are any questions or comments then either Stephen Price, Joanne Nicholl or Emma Newall would be happy to answer via email (please find them via the UCL Directory)