ComGen is community generated course-based authentic research experiences. It is a community of practice.
It is a philosophy and pedagogy. It is high-impact teaching and learning.
Studies have shown that early research experiences help retain students in the STEM field. Most universities provide Research Experience for Undergraduates (REUs) geared towards juniors, seniors, and graduate students with substantial lab experience. At most community colleges there are little to no undergraduate research opportunities.
ComGen is a new way of teaching community college students in the STEM fields by having them conduct graduate style research. Students can get lab research experience as soon as their second quarter in college and build on that foundation to apply to advanced coursework, internships or research positions during and after their undergraduate education.
We have eight years of student learning outcomes data that support this approach to teaching. Our data demonstrate it results in significant gains in the skills critical to the practice and process of science but is also meaningful and empowering for students. We believe in our student’s ability to step up to the challenge and take more ownership and responsibility for their learning. This trust in them and the power of authentic research has allowed them to build skills, gain confidence, and to envision themselves as true scientists.
- Students are hands-on, self-directed and actively engaged in a quarter long research project with an unknown outcome.
- Teachers facilitate inquiry and are hands- off.
- Students learn project management, critical thinking, technical laboratory, and scientific literacy skills.
- A community of practice is created in the lab as knowledge and skills are co-created and shared and the students build expertise in their project domain.
I think the most valuable part of ComGen is that it opens up not merely the scientific results but the scientific process to students … teaches students not what to think about science, but how to think about science: how discoveries are made, how data are collected and analyzed, how science is not a cold, sterile set of clean and polished facts but a living, breathing, ever-changing, messy, beautiful body of work.”-Arlan Stutler (ComGen research student)