At a Glance

Discipline

  • Biology

Instructional Level

  • University

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Individual
  • Group

Type of Tasks

  • Collecting & seeking information
  • Solving problems
  • Reviewing & assessing peers
  • Writing
  • Presenting

Technical Details

Useful Technologies

  • Laboratory with necessary equipment

Class size

  • Small (20-49)

Time

Multiple class periods (2-3 classes)

Purpose

  • Lab & inquiry

Overview

This activity was created to enable students to become independent researchers in a laboratory setting, and takes four weeks to complete. Over the course of a semester, students perform the activity three times, working with a different model organism each time: C. elegans, rodents, and Drosophila. The material covered in the lecture component of the course provides students with background information on relevant theories and experimental techniques that they will use to complete the activity.

Students begin by conducting a literary search and identifying an outstanding neurobiological question they would like to answer. Using lecture material and the experiments they ...

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This activity was created to enable students to become independent researchers in a laboratory setting, and takes four weeks to complete. Over the course of a semester, students perform the activity three times, working with a different model organism each time: C. elegans, rodents, and Drosophila. The material covered in the lecture component of the course provides students with background information on relevant theories and experimental techniques that they will use to complete the activity.

Students begin by conducting a literary search and identifying an outstanding neurobiological question they would like to answer. Using lecture material and the experiments they practice in the lab component of the course, students design their own experimental plan to address their neurobiological question. They then perform their experiments, analyze the results, and come up with an answer to their question based on their data. Frequent feedback from the instructor, teaching assistant and peers ensures that students have sufficient guidance throughout the activity.

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Instructional Objectives

This course is intended to provide students with an understanding of the scientific method through the lens of neurobiology. Students will learn how to identify a research question from scientific literature, design and carry out experiments to address that question, and to come up with a plausible answer based on their experimental results. By carrying out the scientific method themselves, students gain a deeper understanding of how experimental evidence relates to established facts in neurobiology.

Workflow & Materials

Activity Workflow

Experimental Design in Neurobiology

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Contributor's Notes

Joe Dent
Joe Dent

McGill University, Montreal, QC

Benefits

Students improve their critical thinking skills by critiquing the experimental designs of their peers. They also learn how to write scientifically, and gain a hands-on understanding of the scientific method through designing and conducting experiments in a laboratory setting.

Challenges

Students are hesitant to critique each other __â___ it needs to be clear that critiques are meant to help students improve their experiments and there are no negative consequences to defects in experimental design during peer review.

Tips

Walk students through the steps of designing and experiment with emphasis on:

  • Reducing the problem to a clear yes or no question
  • Having meaningful controls
  • Understanding the relationship between number of data points and statistical significance
  • Having realistic ambitions given time and resources

Applied Strategies

  1. 1
    Peer Assessment

Feedback

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