Global Change Biology is a second year module which involves students in carrying out original research on environmental warming. Over a period of three years different cohorts of students contribute to ongoing experiments designed to explore the impact of environmental warming in three different ecosystems. In line with Chang's (2005) notion of an 'inheritance mechanism', each year students pass on their work to their successors so that they can build on the data and emerging hypotheses. The writing students do therefore has a wider purpose and audience than is generally the case in an assessment context. The aim is eventually to publish an multi-authored original research article.
In this video Dr Eoin O'Gorman talks about Chang's thinking and his own concern to involve students in preliminary literature searching and hypothesis formulation. He describes how he designed sessions to help students discover for themselves the state of current knowledge and to see how they could design an experiment that might eventually produce new knowledge/publishable findings. This work provided a strong rationale for the laboratory work they went on to do.
Read Hasok Chang's 2005 article 'Turning an undergraduate class into a professional research community' Teaching in Higher Education, 10/3: 387-394.
Read an article on the module co-authored by Eoin O'Gorman and Thinking Writing and published in Double Helix.
The video below gives a flavour of the experimental work the students are involved in. It was taken during the sixth week of the module and shows students draining salt, brackish and fresh water tanks containing alder leaves in order to count organisms. Two students describe the process: