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Concept: College

233

Online learning initiatives over the past decade have become increasingly comprehensive in their selection of courses and sophisticated in their presentation, culminating in the recent announcement of a number of consortium and startup activities that promise to make a university education on the internet, free of charge, a real possibility. At this pivotal moment it is appropriate to explore the potential for obtaining comprehensive bioinformatics training with currently existing free video resources. This article presents such a bioinformatics curriculum in the form of a virtual course catalog, together with editorial commentary, and an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, and likely future directions for open online learning in this field.

Concepts: Education, Educational psychology, College, Internet, Course, Curricula, Course catalog

175

Most American colleges and universities offer gateway biology courses to meet the needs of three undergraduate audiences: biology and related science majors, many of whom will become biomedical researchers; premedical students meeting medical school requirements and preparing for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT); and students completing general education (GE) graduation requirements. Biology textbooks for these three audiences present a topic scope and sequence that correlates with the topic scope and importance ratings of the biology content specifications for the MCAT regardless of the intended audience. Texts for “nonmajors,” GE courses appear derived directly from their publisher’s majors text. Topic scope and sequence of GE texts reflect those of “their” majors text and, indirectly, the MCAT. MCAT term density of GE texts equals or exceeds that of their corresponding majors text. Most American universities require a GE curriculum to promote a core level of academic understanding among their graduates. This includes civic scientific literacy, recognized as an essential competence for the development of public policies in an increasingly scientific and technological world. Deriving GE biology and related science texts from majors texts designed to meet very different learning objectives may defeat the scientific literacy goals of most schools' GE curricula.

Concepts: Medicine, Education, University, Anatomy, Medical school, College, Curriculum, Association of American Medical Colleges

170

BACKGROUND: Problem-based learning (PBL) has become the most significant innovation in medical education of the past 40 years. In contrast to exam-centred, lecture-based conventional curricula, PBL is a comprehensive curricular strategy that fosters student-centred learning and the skills desired in physicians. The rapid spread of PBL has produced many variants. One of the most common is ‘hybrid PBL’ where conventional teaching methods are implemented alongside PBL. This paper contends that the mixing of these two opposing educational philosophies can undermine PBL and nullify its positive benefits. Schools using hybrid PBL and lacking medical education expertise may end up with a dysfunctional curriculum worse off than the traditional approach. DISCUSSION: For hybrid PBL schools with a dysfunctional curriculum, standard PBL is a cost-feasible option that confers the benefits of the PBL approach. This paper describes the signs of a dysfunctional PBL curriculum to aid hybrid PBL schools in recognising curricular breakdown. Next it discusses alternative curricular strategies and costs associated with PBL. It then details the four critical factors for successful conversion to standard PBL: dealing with staff resistance, understanding the role of lectures, adequate time for preparation and support from the administrative leadership. SUMMARY: Hybrid PBL curricula without oversight by staff with medical education expertise can degenerate into dysfunctional curricula inferior even to the traditional approach from which PBL emerged. Such schools should inspect their curriculum periodically for signs of dysfunction to enable timely corrective action. A decision to convert fully to standard PBL is cost feasible but will require time, expertise and commitment which is only sustainable with supportive leadership.

Concepts: Education, Physician, Educational psychology, College, School, Curriculum, Curricula, Educational philosophy

168

OBJECTIVES: To perform a bibliometric analysis of theses and dissertations on prematurity in the Capes database from 1987 to 2009. METHODS: This is a descriptive study that used the bibliometric approach for the production of indicators of scientific production. Operationally, the methodology was developed in four steps: 1) construction of the theoretical framework; 2) data collection sourced from the abstracts of theses and dissertations available in the Capes Thesis Database which presented the issue of prematurity in the period 1987 to 2009; 3) organization, processing and construction of bibliometric indicators; 4) analysis and interpretation of results. RESULTS: Increase in the scientific literature on prematurity during the period 1987 to 2009; production is represented mostly by dissertations; the institution that received prominence was the Universidade de São Paulo. The studies are directed toward the low birth weight and very low birth weight preterm newborn, encompassing the social, biological and multifactorial causes of prematurity. CONCLUSIONS: There is a qualified, diverse and substantial scientific literature on prematurity developed in various graduate programs of higher education institutions in Brazil.

Concepts: Scientific method, Greek loanwords, Science, College, Higher education, Doctor of Philosophy, Thesis or dissertation, Rhetoric

147

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States; nearly all tobacco use begins during youth and young adulthood (1,2). Among youths, use of tobacco products in any form is unsafe (1,3). CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analyzed data from the 2011-2016 National Youth Tobacco Surveys (NYTS) to determine recent patterns of current (past 30-day) use of seven tobacco product types among U.S. middle (grades 6-8) and high (grades 9-12) school students. In 2016, 20.2% of surveyed high school students and 7.2% of middle school students reported current tobacco product use. In 2016, among current tobacco product users, 47.2% of high school students and 42.4% of middle school students used ≥2 tobacco products, and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) were the most commonly used tobacco product among high (11.3%) and middle (4.3%) school students. Current use of any tobacco product did not change significantly during 2011-2016 among high or middle school students, although combustible tobacco product use declined. However, during 2015-2016, among high school students, decreases were observed in current use of any tobacco product, any combustible product, ≥2 tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and hookahs. Among middle school students, current use of e-cigarettes decreased. Comprehensive and sustained strategies can help prevent and reduce the use of all forms of tobacco products among U.S. youths (1-3).

Concepts: Tobacco, Cigarette, Nicotine, Middle school, High school, Electronic cigarette, College, Youth

132

Educational disparities in U.S. adult mortality are large and have widened across birth cohorts. We consider three policy relevant scenarios and estimate the mortality attributable to: (1) individuals having less than a high school degree rather than a high school degree, (2) individuals having some college rather than a baccalaureate degree, and (3) individuals having anything less than a baccalaureate degree rather than a baccalaureate degree, using educational disparities specific to the 1925, 1935, and 1945 cohorts.

Concepts: United States, Education, High school, College, Higher education, School, Bachelor's degree, Education in the United States

127

We have previously shown that individual differences in educational achievement are highly heritable in the early and middle school years in the UK. The objective of the present study was to investigate whether similarly high heritability is found at the end of compulsory education (age 16) for the UK-wide examination, called the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). In a national twin sample of 11,117 16-year-olds, heritability was substantial for overall GCSE performance for compulsory core subjects (58%) as well as for each of them individually: English (52%), mathematics (55%) and science (58%). In contrast, the overall effects of shared environment, which includes all family and school influences shared by members of twin pairs growing up in the same family and attending the same school, accounts for about 36% of the variance of mean GCSE scores. The significance of these findings is that individual differences in educational achievement at the end of compulsory education are not primarily an index of the quality of teachers or schools: much more of the variance of GCSE scores can be attributed to genetics than to school or family environment. We suggest a model of education that recognizes the important role of genetics. Rather than a passive model of schooling as instruction (instruere, ‘to build in’), we propose an active model of education (educare, ‘to bring out’) in which children create their own educational experiences in part on the basis of their genetic propensities, which supports the trend towards personalized learning.

Concepts: Genetics, Education, High school, College, School, Heritability, Teacher, Pedagogy

105

Historically, admissions committees for biomedical Ph.D. programs have heavily weighed GRE scores when considering applications for admission. The predictive validity of GRE scores on graduate student success is unclear, and there have been no recent investigations specifically on the relationship between general GRE scores and graduate student success in biomedical research. Data from Vanderbilt University Medical School’s biomedical umbrella program were used to test to what extent GRE scores can predict outcomes in graduate school training when controlling for other admissions information. Overall, the GRE did not prove useful in predicating who will graduate with a Ph.D., pass the qualifying exam, have a shorter time to defense, deliver more conference presentations, publish more first author papers, or obtain an individual grant or fellowship. GRE scores were found to be moderate predictors of first semester grades, and weak to moderate predictors of graduate GPA and some elements of a faculty evaluation. These findings suggest admissions committees of biomedical doctoral programs should consider minimizing their reliance on GRE scores to predict the important measures of progress in the program and student productivity.

Concepts: Prediction, Futurology, College, School, Graduate school, Postgraduate education, Piled Higher and Deeper, Graduate Record Examination

90

Alcohol and marijuana are the two most abused substances in US colleges. However, research on the combined influence (cross sectional or longitudinal) of these substances on academic performance is currently scant.

Concepts: University, Academia, Faculty, College

83

Many US biomedical PhD programs receive more applications for admissions than they can accept each year, necessitating a selective admissions process. Typical selection criteria include standardized test scores, undergraduate grade point average, letters of recommendation, a resume and/or personal statement highlighting relevant research or professional experience, and feedback from interviews with training faculty. Admissions decisions are often founded on assumptions that these application components correlate with research success in graduate school, but these assumptions have not been rigorously tested. We sought to determine if any application components were predictive of student productivity measured by first-author student publications and time to degree completion. We collected productivity metrics for graduate students who entered the umbrella first-year biomedical PhD program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2008-2010 and analyzed components of their admissions applications. We found no correlations of test scores, grades, amount of previous research experience, or faculty interview ratings with high or low productivity among those applicants who were admitted and chose to matriculate at UNC. In contrast, ratings from recommendation letter writers were significantly stronger for students who published multiple first-author papers in graduate school than for those who published no first-author papers during the same timeframe. We conclude that the most commonly used standardized test (the general GRE) is a particularly ineffective predictive tool, but that qualitative assessments by previous mentors are more likely to identify students who will succeed in biomedical graduate research. Based on these results, we conclude that admissions committees should avoid over-reliance on any single component of the application and de-emphasize metrics that are minimally predictive of student productivity. We recommend continual tracking of desired training outcomes combined with retrospective analysis of admissions practices to guide both application requirements and holistic application review.

Concepts: College, School, Graduate school, Test, Bachelor's degree, Standardized test, Graduate Record Examination, Statement of purpose