Living and Loving Biology: A Learning Community with Research for College First-Years
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
Curriculum and Instruction
Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research
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AbstractThe research-based Trelawny Learning Community (TLC) at James Madison University has three objectives: 1) provide research experience for first-year Biology majors; 2) increase student/department connection; 3) build teamwork skills. The program aims to inspire first-years to investigate and embark on science careers. TLCs take courses together and live in one dorm, but each joins a research laboratory corresponding to individual interests. TLCs attend research-themed seminars, co-run an ecology project, and help organize the department's research symposium, guided by upperclassman mentors who demonstrate resources, co-lead trips, and drive discussions. Student journals are NVIVO-coded for research/interaction/emotion themes to track learning and personal growth. TLCs know significantly more faculty and graduate students (avg. 6.1, 3.7) than non-TLC first-years (avg. 1.7, 0) and cite friendship (34.6%), confidence in major/career (30.8%), department interaction (19.2%) and pursuit of interests (15.4%) as benefits. I illustrate these outcomes along with fallbacks and improvements to this still-evolving program.