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Zoology Undergraduates 'Reach into Research': Student Volunteers Program


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Edwards, A, Jones, SM, Wapstra, E, Richardson, AMM and Talbot, S 2006 , Zoology Undergraduates 'Reach into Research': Student Volunteers Program , Teaching Matters conference, Hobart, Tasmania.

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Despite curricula emphasizing student-led enquiry, some students still struggle to find relevance and excitement in their undergraduate courses. How can we better foster an appreciation of how research informs current knowledge and provide our undergraduates with authentic research experiences? Working from the Garnett and Holmes(1995) model of how both students and academics can benefit from research, we have designed an incremental suite of learning activities across the three years of the Zoology undergraduate curriculum that extends and enhances the student experience. Here we report on one distinctive component of that program: the Zoology Student Volunteers Program.

Participation in this program is voluntary, and open primarily to students who have completed their second year of study in Zoology. Volunteers are matched with research mentors, usually postgraduate students of the School, for short-term, in-house research placements that may offer either laboratory or field experiences. The participants are given a real taste of research in action, the opportunity to develop a suite of new skills, and the chance to work with professional scientists. Most projects run over the summer: all volunteers are first trained in OH&S by the Zoology Field Officer.

The program has been embraced enthusiastically by our undergraduates: evaluation surveys have been overwhelmingly positive. Students comment that the experience has opened their eyes to the excitement of scientific research, and has encouraged them to see themselves as 'researchers of the future'. Furthermore, the mentors also benefit, not only from gaining assistance with data collection, but also by developing valuable generic skills in guiding, supervising and training junior colleagues. A flow-on effect of this project should be greater participation at Honours and postgraduate levels.

Item Type: Other
Authors/Creators:Edwards, A and Jones, SM and Wapstra, E and Richardson, AMM and Talbot, S
Publisher: Teaching Matters conference
Additional Information:

Teaching Matters 2006 conference abstract, University of Tasmania.

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