The DuPont Interdisciplinary Science Learning Laboratories (ISLL Lab) are designed to allow us to teach introductory science courses in a way that puts learning at the center of attention, rather than instruction. Classrooms seat a maximum of only 48 students, and they are designed for Interdisciplinary "Problem Based Learning" (I-PBL), rather than lecturing. Students work in small groups to address problems drawn from real-world situations, usually focusing on a contemporary issue (such as environmental processes or alternative energy) or the current research literature. With collaboration of an instructor, students pose soluble problems, find the concepts and information that they need to solve the problem, design and perform experiments in the adjacent laboratories, analyze results, visualize their analyzed data, present their interpretations to the peers, and participate in peer review. In contrast to hearing about science in a typical lecture, students learn to do science themselves and understand the culture of science in terms of respect for peer review, originality, and rigorous scholarship. We have equipped the I-PBL classrooms and labs with exceptional new technology that helps students develop research-like experiences in classes with real-time acquisition of complex data, image and video analysis, and statistical hypothesis testing. The experience is similar to what many think of as an Honors experience, but it is available to all students.
These classes unify laboratories, recitation, lectures, and discussions in a single location. They meet in two-hour blocks per day so that there is time to explore interdisciplinary problems that integrate multiple disciplines. Throughout all activities, a "preceptor" will be present. This is a new role that we are introducing in ISE Lab, to complement and support the faculty member and graduate student Graduate Teaching Assistants undergraduate Peer-Led Team Leaders (PLTL). Preceptors work directly with students, help to mentor the Graduate Teaching Assistants and undergraduate PLTL tutors, and bring continuity to the range of different classroom activities. Thus, instead of these activities occurring in different buildings at different times with different people in a tag-team like process, students will have the continuity of a relationship with a professional dedicated to helping them learn and knows them and their talents that they bring to collaborations.
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