Everett Community College

With the inception of the Ocean Research College Academy nine years ago, Everett Community College pioneered a learning laboratory on the efficacy of high impact practices centered on student research. ORCA founder and executive director Ardi Kveven hypothesized that the scientific way of thinking could be integrated across core college courses (science, mathematics, English and history) and students would apply the nature of science and use evidence to support their ideas in all subject areas.  

 

With few other examples from which to draw, the experimental early college program developed a core research project that blended oceanography course outcomes with English composition and mathematical analysis. By expanding on water quality data that was already collected by Washington State Agencies around the Puget Sound to assess ecosystem health (Puget Sound Partnership, 2009), every incoming cohort could work on and contribute to the longitudinal study. By scaffolding the complexity of ecosystem dynamics (beginning with physical properties of water and ending with food chain dynamics) students can asking testable questions as their understanding of ecosystem complexities increase.

Projects

This seminar combines the orginal research conducted by second year students, providing two quarters for students to plan, construct, collect, and compose an original research paper for their capstone writing course in English. The ORCA team also worked on an article for publication in the Council for Undergraduate Research quarterly journal. The collaborative writing process helped faculty gain a clearer sense of the work they do to encourage undergraduate researchers and share the lessons learned with others in the CCURI network and beyond.

In the Snohomish River estuary, the tides and river flow are key to productivity in the estuary. By starting with modeling the physical properties of water and then going out and taking real time measurements, students are able to construct their own understanding and begin to ask questions about topics of interest. Most university research experiences occur during the summer, whereas ORCA students ask and attempt to answer their own original research questions over the course of two years. The support from CCURI is vital to this endeavor.  Now with an outboard engine for our inflatable boat , ORCA students can sample in the river, measuring d.o. temperature and salinity (DOTS) data. What starts on a SOPS trip as an inventory of mammals observed can evolve into a student generated question. Last year, one student wondered if the heavy metals that we tested in the sediments were present in harbor seal scat. She designed a research protocol to test her question. Both harbor seals move upriver with the tide and river otters come downstream to the estuary to feed, resulting in feces available for students to collect and study. Both John Van Neil from Finger Lakes CC and Tom Murphy from Edmonds CC have offered their assistance with this emerging student study.

At ORCA, we have found that student learning increases when faculty work together to address real world issues that do not neatly fit into traditional disciplines. Students work on the SOPS project for at least one year, with students fully vested in a testable research question involving real-time research (Kveven, 2009).  The real world application of science to address open-ended problems increases student enthusiasm; motivation; and confidence and reduces attrition in STEM pre-requisite courses. The success of the undergraduate research at ORCA resulted in a grant from the National Science Foundation to renovate a laboratory dedicated to research training.
 Please visit www.everettcc.edu/orca to view SOPS Updates.

ORCA Students have attended the last two biennial Salish Sea Ecosystem Conferences and presented their State of Possession Sound research to the scientific community. Last fall, nine students attended the conference in Vancouver, BC. One student poster received honorable mention in the student poster competition, where most of the other posters were generated by graduate students.

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Research

This seminar combines the orginal research conducted by second year students, providing two quarters for students to plan, construct, collect, and compose an original research paper for their capstone writing course in English. The ORCA team also worked on an article for publication in the Council for Undergraduate Research quarterly journal. The collaborative writing process helped faculty gain a clearer sense of the work they do to encourage undergraduate researchers and share the lessons learned with others in the CCURI network and beyond.

Vision and Change Implementation

 

Integrate Core Concepts and Competencies throughout the Curriculum

  • Introduce the scientific process to students early, and integrate it into all undergraduate biology courses

  • Relate abstract concepts in biology to real ­world examples on a regular basis, and make biology content relevant by presenting problems in a real ­life context 

  • Stimulate the curiosity students have for learning about the natural world

  • Demonstrate both the passion scientists have for their discipline and their delight in sharing their understanding of the world with students

 

Focus on Student ­Centered Learning

  • Engage students as active participants, not passive recipients, in all undergraduate biology courses

  • Use multiple modes of instruction in addition to the traditional lecture

  • Introduce research experiences as an integral component of biology education for all students, regardless of their major

  • Integrate multiple forms of assessment to track student learning

 

Promote a Campus wide Commitment to Change

  • Mobilize all stakeholders, from students to administrators, to commit to improving the quality of undergraduate biology education

  • Support the development of a true community of scholars dedicated to advancing the life sciences and the science of teaching

  • Advocate for increased status, recognition, and rewards for innovation in teaching, student success, and other educational outcome

 

Engage the Biology Community in the Implementation of Change

  • Promote more concept­ oriented undergraduate biology courses, and help all students learn how to integrate facts into larger conceptual contexts 

  • Provide all biology faculty with access to the teaching and learning research referenced throughout this report, and encourage its application when developing courses 

  • Create active ­learning environments for all students, even those in first ­year biology courses

High Impact Practices Implementation

First-Year Seminars and Experiences

Common Intellectual Experiences

Learning Communities

Writing-Intensive Courses

Collaborative Assignments and Projects

Undergraduate Research

Diversity/Global Learning

Service Learning

Community-Based Learning

Capstone Courses and Projects

CCURI is supported through NSF #1524353 

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