My name is Torstein and I research biologists. This means that even though I work in the biology building I don’t go into the field to gather data, unless biologists ate there too.
So, what in particular is interesting about biologists and how do I investigate them? First, I scrutinize how biologists learn – biologists work with a huge array of technical and theoretical concepts and procedures. Finding the most salient ways biologists develop their capabilities is therefore no easy task. Investigating some aspects of how biologists’ learn can help develop better teaching strategies to enhance student learning. In my case, I focus on those instances when biology students actually perform biology, for example during an internship at a workplace, during fieldwork, or in the laboratory, but also during leisure activities like in the local hiking group, a political organization, or on a mushroom hunt.
Second, how do I gather data about how they learn in different situations? There are many ways to do this. You are probably aware of surveys, which are typically distributed during election time or as course evaluations. These are great to establish relationships and generalizable findings, but I am interested in the context in which biology students’ learn. I focus on individuals and how they experience their work with biology. This means that I gather data through interviews, observations, and blogs that students write about their biology work. This can create quite confusing and convoluted data, which unfortunately does not fit neatly into an R-generated plot. However, identifying patterns in students’ experiences can give us a better understanding about how individuals work and learn in biology.
Torstein Nielsen Hole is a PhD student who works with bioCEED and the project PRIME. He is originally trained in pedagogy.