A Model of Investigative Project Work to Teach Discipline-Specific Research Skills to Students Studying Advanced Human Physiology

Louise A. Lexis, Brianna L. Julien


Evidence indicates that investigative project work promotes the development of research proficiencies essential for science graduates such as team work and oral and written communication skills. Designed from a constructivist approach, we introduced investigative project work in human physiology into a final-year human biosciences capstone program. To encourage the utmost authenticity, students are required to take on the role of a scientist in its entirety across a semester-long independent research project. In self-selected teams of 5-7 students, research projects are designed and implemented, and culminate with a team poster presentation, individual oral presentation, and submission of a journal article. In this paper we describe the project model in detail, including resource requirements, and place the intricacies of the model in context with the prevailing literature. Student performance over three years of the project is presented, along with student feedback and staff observations. We also discuss the challenges faced when developing and implementing the program. Preliminary evidence indicates that the project promotes the development of scientific communication skills, and as such, helps lead the students into a culture of professional practice. We believe that the model described in this paper could be adapted by academics across a range of science disciplines.

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