Student-produced video of role-plays on topics in cell biology and biochemistry: A novel undergraduate group work exercise

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Young, Paul W.
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University College Cork
National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
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Group work or cooperative learning is a form of active learning that has potential benefits that extend beyond just being an alternative or improved way of learning course material. For example, Shimazoe and Aldrich (2010) identified six proposed benefits of active learning to students, namely (1) promoting deep learning, (2) helping students earn higher grades, (3) teaching social skills & civic values, (4) teaching higher order thinking skills, (5) promoting personal growth and (6) developing positive attitudes toward autonomous learning. There is evidence for the effectiveness of role-plays both in achieving learning outcomes (Azman, Musa, & Mydin, 2018; Craciun, 2010; Latif, Mumtaz, Mumtaz, & Hussain, 2018; McSharry & Jones, 2000; Yang, Kim, & Noh, 2010), but also in developing desirable graduate attributes such as teamwork, communication and problem solving skills [4]. The importance of such skills is widely touted by employers of science graduates, sometimes more so than discipline-specific knowledge, arguing in favour of the incorporation of role-plays and other forms of cooperative learning into undergraduate science curricula. Role-playing is probably not as widely used in the physical and life sciences as it is in other academic disciplines. In science the most obvious role-play scenarios in which students play the roles of people might be in examining historical figures at the centre of famous scientific discoveries or debates (Odegaard, 2003). In addition, role-plays fit well at the interface between science and other discipline when exploring ethical, legal or commercial implications of scientific discoveries(Chuck, 2011). However, to apply role-play to core topics in science or mathematics the roles that must be played are not those of people but rather of things like particles, forces, elements, atoms, numbers, laws, equations, molecules, cells, organs and so on. The learning scenarios for science-based roleplays in which the characters represented are not people are less obvious, probably explaining why the use of role-plays in science education is less common. Nevertheless, focusing on the life sciences, role-plays in which the characters are organelles in a cell or enzymes involved in fundamental cellular processes like DNA replication, RNA transcription and protein translation have been described for example (Cherif, Siuda, Dianne M. Jedlicka, & Movahedzadeh, 2016; Takemura & Kurabayashi, 2014). The communication of discipline-specific templates and successful models for the application of role-playing in science education is likely to encourage their wider adoption. Here I describe a videoed group role-play assignment that has been developed over a ten-year period of reflective teaching practice. I suggest that this model of videoed group role-plays is a useful cooperative learning format that will allow learners to apply their varied creativity and talents to exploring and explaining diverse scientific topics while simultaneously developing their teamwork skills.
Group work , Cooperative learning , Active learning , Role-play , Physical and life sciences
Young, P. W. (2019) 'Student-produced video of role-plays on topics in cell biology and biochemistry: A novel undergraduate group work exercise', Learning Connections 2019: Spaces, People, Practice, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland, 5-6 December, pp. 68-74. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2020.00115