The NMSU-HHMI Curriculum Development initiative has broadened access to science and increased student success in science by restructuring two introductory biology courses (BIOL 111 and BIOL 211). The courses now represent nationally recognized models of the successful incorporation of student-centered, active learning into large science courses. Junior and Senior undergraduate peer instructors (BioCats) help freshman and sophomore students in those courses work through compelling case studies. The case studies help students learn to think critically and to apply information and concepts introduced in the lecture. In the first semester course (BIOL 111), these case studies, as well as activities designed to foster development of general learning skills, are facilitated by BioCats in small workshop sessions. The success of this approach has been described in Preszler (2009). In the second semester course (BIOL 211), the case studies are facilitated by BioCats during interactive class meetings (“lectures”). The success of this approach has been described in Shuster and Preszler (2014). We are continuing to enhance and expand our use of interactive case studies in BIOL 211 by leveraging the unique environment of NMSU’s new Technology-Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) classroom.
An initiative over the last semesters has allowed us to incorporate BioCats as members of the instructional team in key upper division courses (Biol 301, 305, 309, 311, and 467). These BioCats attended lectures, put in peer tutoring hours at the Bio Help Desk, and contribute to the instructional mission of each course. With the transition to the sustainability phase in fall 2019, the NMSU-HHMI program will only be able to hire Biol 111 and Biol 211 BioCats.
In addition to benefiting the students in introductory and key upper division courses, our reforms have provided junior and senior BioCats with the opportunity to develop their teaching and leadership skills. BioCats work 10 hours per week in one of the courses and are getting paid $10.80/hour.
Who is eligible to apply to work as a BioCat?
BioCats are full time NMSU junior and senior science majors who have a clear understanding of general concepts taught in introductory and upper divisions biology, a strong desire to help students learn, and an interest in improving their communication and leadership skills. BioCats attend one section of the lecture course in which they are working, in addition to Help Desk Hours held in the Biology Success Center and weekly prep meetings, e.g. workshop prep meetings Tuesdays from 5:00-6:30 pm for Biol 111.
AdCats- not available in spring 2020
AdCats are undergraduate peer advisors, and are integral members of our advising team under the guidance of Avis James. Advisors are professionals who aid students in achieving personal, educational, and career goals through respectful, dynamic relationships wherein the advisor serves as a teacher and guide. Geared at helping undergraduate students through not only career and course choice, advisors also work to help students with decision-making, problem solving, and connecting with the community of available resources (such as tutoring, research opportunities, medical or graduate school preparedness, etc.). AdCats will be expected to maintain a weekly schedule, attend weekly meetings, assist with programs geared at student involvement. AdCats work 10 hours per week and receive a $1,750 stipend each semester. For more details about AdCats contact Avis James, Foster Hall, Rm 204, firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 575-646-5471.