Lessons learned – Plant Physiology 2013

student poster on zinc and plant growthI’m still waiting on the final research papers from my Plant Physiology students, but everything else for this class is wrapped up. Today I tried something new for their poster presentations, replacing the research posters on the boards in the hallway around my lab with their project posters. This worked better than I expected, enabling the students to mill around and discuss their work with each other; it was not too unlike what happens at an actual poster session.

I like to debrief this class in person every time I teach it because I feel like their shared reflections sometimes lead to input that wouldn’t have emerged without a real-life conversation. One of the topics that came up today was the need for more feedback in the planning stages of their projects. Although they all seemed to like the open-ended nature of the mutant project, several of them said they would have benefited from a more formal meeting with me after they submitted their proposal, but before beginning their experiments. I like this idea and plan to try it next year.

Another good suggestion was to structure the early part of the semester to include some more traditional lab experiences that would expose them to some of the routine methods they were likely to require for their projects. Those first few weeks always feel a bit wasted even though I warn encourage them to use the time wisely by reading widely on their topic, so I think I’ll try mixing it up next year.

On the technical side, only one group in five succeeded in using PCR to confirm their T-DNA insertion. I know each group used the online primer design tool correctly since I checked their work before I placed the order. I’m guessing the weak link in the chain was with either the DNA isolation protocol or bad pipetting technique. I can address both of these with a little more oversight next time, I hope.

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