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COSEE-OS Graduate Student/Faculty Collaborative Workshop
Concept map created at the COSEE-OS Graduate Student/Faculty Collaboratiave workshop
In the past year, COSEE-OS has run a series of model workshops that bring together teams of researchers and educators in order to synergistically improve communication of complex science topics using concept mapping and web-based tools. On January 29, 2010, at the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center, a new pilot workshop was launched that challenged scientists and graduate students (as well as a few postdoctoral researchers) to open new lines of communication at the academic level. Working in small groups of four people each, five teams of ‘scientists-in-training’ (SIT) paired with a veteran scientist (VS) worked together to construct meaningful concept maps focused on their research topics, and were collectively asked to target an audience of undergraduate non-science majors.

Each person had a contribution to make: The SIT were tasked with providing the VS with the "bridging perspective" to the undergraduate population, while the VS in turn had a chance to explain and clarify their deep knowledge of complex science topics (e.g., climate change dynamics, ecosystem modeling, carbon sequestration) on a peer-to-peer level with the SIT. On the final day of the workshop, the SIT showcased their "consensus" concept maps to Waterville High School students, who critiqued their presentations and provided thoughtful feedback on their work. One SIT commented on the experience, "Concept mapping is certainly a good communication tool, and can be used as representations of different patterns of thought. This is very important in both education and communication with peers."

COSEE Collaborators

This workshop event was truly a collaborative endeavor as COSEE-OS staff worked to make the entire process (planning, implementing, evaluating) as transparent and transferable as possible. Linda Duguay (COSEE-West) and Cheryl Peach (COSEE California) were present and helped give participants a perspective of the COSEE Network as a whole. Sage Lichtenwalner of COSEE NOW spearheaded an activity that was new to COSEE-OS - Introduction of the Learning Cycle - which is used by COSEE NOW in its Communicating Ocean Sciences courses. This new element was well-received by the participants.

In a recent post-workshop telecon, members of the facilitation team - including Janice McDonnell (COSEE NOW) - also provided valuable feedback to improve future activities. Perhaps the most interesting and innovative part of this research and design effort is that these collaborators plan to utilize the COSEE-OS workshop model and apply it in a variety of different ways that complement their individual COSEE’s objectives and target audiences (e.g., online, or as new addition to their current workshops).

Participant Feedback and Evaluation

What did the scientists-in-training participants think about the workshop experience? Overall the response was positive. Anecdotally, there were many comments from the SIT regarding their appreciation for the support provided by COSEE to improve their teaching skills, as they prepare for careers in academia or other fields. From the evaluations, the majority of SIT thought the process of using concept maps helped them think through the topics learned in the workshop (94%), as well as share ideas with the VS (65%). Perhaps most encouraging to COSEE-OS staff was the positive rating of 6.9 for "quality of interaction" (out of possible 7 on a Likert scale; n = 17) between VS and SIT.

The SIT expressed a strong desire to have further training in educational pedagogy integrated systemically into their graduate program curriculum. COSEE-OS is now brainstorming a variety of novel ways to implement this request with the University of Maine’s faculty in the School of Marine Sciences.

In conclusion, this workshop model appeared to facilitate productive, stimulating scientific dialogues that will have a lasting impact on graduate students’ and postdoctoral researchers’ careers in the ocean sciences.

Next Steps

As COSEE-OS has done for previous workshops, a full description and evaluation of the workshop will be available online in the coming weeks. Interested participants will each have their own webpage linked to their team's series of concept maps produced during the workshop. Concept maps, video clips, quotes, photos, and workshop materials will also be available for download, providing key resources to those who couldn't attend the workshop in person. The next workshop in the series will be held at COSEE-West. Stay tuned!