Authors enliven primary literature in the classroom

Craig RobertsDr. Craig Roberts (Visiting Instructor, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences) helped students learn to design experiments,  communicate scientific ideas, and read scientific literature in his Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (Spring 2010) course. He selected scientific papers to assign to students; the students then worked in teams to present the ideas to the class.

Students used a variety of methods to communicate scientific ideas.  Some students prepared animations, some used drawings, some produced skits or videos; all met the goals of communicating scientific ideas.

In addition, Dr. Roberts arranged for the paper’s author to visit the class, either in person or via Skype to address student ideas. Even the busy researchers in Duke’s neuroscience community were happy to talk to undergraduates, as they did not have to prepare a presentation; students were responsible for leading the discussion about the paper, involving the author, and the discussion was limited to 20 mins. Researchers who were not at Duke were also willing to give undergraduates 20 minutes of their time, via Skype.

Students and paper author describe methods
Duke students describe methods with lead author Dr. Seth Tomchik of the Scripps Research Institute (via Skype)

Several of the researchers commented that they were rewarded by interacting with the students with new ideas and ways of seeing their own projects.