Icon for: Laleh Cote

LALEH COTE

University of California Berkeley
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Laleh Cote

    Laleh Cote

    Lead Presenter
    May 12, 2019 | 09:48 p.m.

    Hi all, thanks for visiting my project page! In my video, you’ll see footage featuring undergraduate students at Gavilan College, UC Berkeley, and Berkeley Lab. 


    To get involved, we have a form you can fill out - https://tinyurl.com/y4yjfjg7


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    A bit about me:


    My name is Laleh, I’m a California native, and I'm currently studying Science Education and Microbiology at UC Berkeley.


    I had a pretty normal educational journey in my K-12 years. I liked singing, dancing, and theatre, and thought maybe I would someday be a journalist. But, I really didn’t have much of a plan after graduating from high school. I knew that I was supposed to “do college,” but didn’t really know what that meant, how to be successful, or how to choose a major. I just took classes, and did fine in some, and did pretty badly in others.


    After getting off-track in my first semesters of college, and really not knowing what direction I would go in, my studies at Gavilan College (gavilan.edu) were my “second try” at this whole college thing, and I needed someone to help me figure out how to stay on track. I began my coursework in biology at Gav, and my biology teacher (Rey) turned out to be a really wonderful mentor, and he pushed me to get involved with tutoring, volunteering at the local ER. Eventually, he also supported me in my application to multiple undergraduate research opportunities.


    With no research experience to speak of, and a very average GPA, I was rejected by multiple programs, before doing a phone interview with a research scientist at Berkeley Lab (lbl.gov) … which led to me joining their team for the summer, and doing research in the Molecular Microbial Ecology team. Without any scientists in my family, my “professional family” at Berkeley Lab taught me all about doing research, and the internship introduced me to other students like me, who loved biology, chemistry, physics, etc.


    I moved to the Bay Area to be closer to my research team, and finished up my transfer classes at the Peralta Colleges (web.peralta.edu) in Oakland and Berkeley. I eventually transferred to San Francisco State University (sfsu.edu), and got my 4-year degree. Something that kept me going was all of the research that I was doing outside of the classroom …


    Fast-forward to now, it should be no surprise that I have dedicated my research as a PhD student to this topic. I’m super excited to share more with you, and to meet everyone through this week’s video showcase!


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    I have to give a huge shout-out to Rey Morales and the MESA folks at Gavilan College for supporting me all this time!


    Welcome, and please leave a note to say “hello” while you’re here!

  • Icon for: Gillian Puttick

    Gillian Puttick

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 12:03 p.m.

    Resource pedagogy has proven to be a powerful way to engage students from underserved communities in K-12, so it is great to see your enthusiasm for applying it at the undergraduate level.  Could you say more about your ideas for building on students' funds of knowledge to increase their enrollment in undergraduate STEM research experiences?

     
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    Laleh Cote
  • Icon for: Laleh Cote

    Laleh Cote

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 03:29 a.m.

    Yes, of course, and thanks for the question. This project launches in Summer 2019, so we are in the early stages. However, a goal of this work is to develop an intervention to support students in writing about their “home communities,” and from there, working with them to identify the funds of knowledge (FoK) they possess as a result of being a part of those communities.

    From there, students will be guided to combine their FoK with their interest in STEM (for those who have not yet begun to do research), or their newly-gained STEM content knowledge (for those who have recently begun to do research) to come up with new research questions, or perhaps new avenues for exploring existing research questions.

    Students can use this writing to strengthen their applications to research experiences, or to begin conversations about their ideas with researchers/scientists they are already in contact with.

  • Icon for: Laleh Cote

    Laleh Cote

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 01:59 p.m.

    TEACHERS! RESEARCHERS!

    If you are passing through, please share a comment about the ways in which you see your students (at any level) using the knowledge and skills they bring with them from their "home communities" into the classroom, or into the research space. 

    Or, ... ways that you think you could support students in doing this. 

  • May 13, 2019 | 02:16 p.m.

    Absolutely, community colleges are not well-served. Students from Project TRUE, who are incredibly interested in science in high school, often go on to community/2-year colleges for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with their potential to be scholars. 

     
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    Laleh Cote
  • Icon for: Laleh Cote

    Laleh Cote

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 03:28 a.m.

    In my experience, I have found that there are some misconceptions about what it means to go to a community college - how valuable that education is, or how much potential those students have.

    Do you see this coming up with your students? What are they saying (or hearing) about community college?

  • May 14, 2019 | 10:00 a.m.

    Laleh:

    I'm really interested in your approach to writing as a way to uncover the knowledge students already have. Couple questions. First, how are you actually getting students to demonstrate what they already know? Are you using writing prompts, free reflection, something else? Second, how much of the barrier to accessing research is a limit on available activities at 2-year schools?

     

     
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  • Icon for: Laleh Cote

    Laleh Cote

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 03:44 a.m.

    This research is new this year, and I will begin data collection in Summer 2019. Thanks for the great question about writing - this is something that I will begin to explore this year, but I have a few initial thoughts I can share with you about what might be a useful way to support students in identifying their funds of knowledge for use in the development or STEM-based research.


    First, I think that writing is an important activity for college students to engage in because they will need to write proposals (or portions of proposals) in order to apply to 4-year schools for transfer, to STEM-based grants and scholarships, and also for graduate school (if that’s on their radar). Additionally, it’s merely “nice” to identify a student’s funds of knowledge … unless we actually apply it to something, and then it becomes more powerful.


    In order to develop this method, I am going to have to do some think-aloud interviews with students, in which I give them a prompt, have them write, and then discuss how this might be expanded upon. I suppose this might look something like what a tutor would do, until I am able to develop what the actual writing exercise looks like. My goal is to have something that is high-impact and low-cost (in terms of time and resources needed). I don’t know what the end result is going to look like, though.

  • Icon for: Laleh Cote

    Laleh Cote

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 03:56 a.m.

    To address your second question about access. If you are attending a community college, you are (usually) attending a school that doesn’t have faculty research happening in such a way that you could go and “work for” a lab/group and get experience conducting research. Props to those community colleges who are doing research, though!!


    So, aside from that physical barrier, there is a more complex barrier at work for community college students. First, community college students typically have to apply to formal programs in order to have the opportunity to do research, and usually these are summer programs. Because most undergraduates don’t take classes in the summer, “everyone” is applying to summer programs, which makes the competition really steep. And, many researchers select students by things like GPA, prior research experience, and the prestige of the school the applicant is from. I am not saying that all researchers do this, but this is a practice that I believe happens commonly enough to warrant a discussion here. So, even if the community college student has a great GPA, they are not going to be competitive if you consider the second and third items on the list. Mix in biases and misconceptions about “who” community college students are … we have a multi-faceted access issue.


    I would like to think about the ways that being a first-generation to college or near-first-generation to college student impacts their access to research experiences. The barriers here are also complex, because these students may not know what to do in order to succeed in higher education spaces, may not have role models who can “show them the ropes,” and may have little confidence in their ability to be successful if they, for example, ask a faculty member if they can join their lab - What should I say? What should I wear? When should I ask? How do I bring up money? Am I even allowed to bring up money? 

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Researcher
    May 14, 2019 | 10:20 a.m.

    I look forward to hearing more about this work as it unfolds. 

    I am curious whether, as you think about FoK, the "K" includes ways of debating/arguing/reasong about evidence, whether about science or anything else where phenomena and data matter?

     

     
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  • Icon for: Laleh Cote

    Laleh Cote

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 04:01 a.m.

    Ooh, this is such an intriguing question! As my research in this area is new, I also look forward to see how it unfolds! =)


    Although I don’t have a clear answer for you (yet), I certainly think that some students will have developed interesting reasoning skills as a result of their membership in a particular “home community.”


    Tonight I watched the video for the “Learning through Observing and Pitching In to Community Activities,” which you can see at: https://videohall.com/p/1346


    In their project, they have observed differences in the ways that pairs of Mexican-heritage children work together, as compared to European American middle-class children. They have identified one particular collaborative style as “fluid synchrony,” and the Mexican-heritage children are observed to engage in this practice quite often, when considering the activities of multiple pairs of children from both groups.


    Considering how this might play out in higher education settings (or beyond), I think it would be very interesting to observe how students from Mexican-heritage backgrounds might consider “fluid synchrony” to be part of their funds of knowledge, as a result of their membership in the Mexican community. This is just an example, of course, and each individual student is different in terms of what they might consider to be the assets they have as a result of their own home community membership.


    I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine how these students might be engaging in problem-solving or reasoning in a different way than the students from a home community that is different from their own. We know that there are varied communication styles among people from different communities, and so I would imagine that argumentation styles would also vary accordingly.

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Researcher
    May 15, 2019 | 06:15 a.m.

    This sounds very reasonable, and fruitful of potential hypotheses.  One question I have (in my own work) is about what counts as evidence in such "non scholastic" reasoning — anecdote, eye-witness experience, experiments (at least trial-and-error), or perhaps appeal to an authority ("My friend X, who knows a lot about this, told me...).  Good luck!

     
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  • Icon for: Laleh Cote

    Laleh Cote

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 07:20 p.m.

    Admittedly, I don't have an answer for you right now, but this is really intriguing stuff. It is very interesting to think about the many different ways that people approach problems, and also how we might assess learning when students "show us" these different ways. Are you studying learners at the K-12 level, or higher than that?

  • Icon for: Matt Fisher

    Matt Fisher

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 02:38 p.m.

    Your video is titled "STEM research driven by students' own funds of knowledge." I'm interested in digging deeper into that idea of "driven." Thinking back on my own experiences, both as an undergraduate doing research and a faculty member working with undergraduates, it's clear that the expert/novice difference had a HUGE impact on the interactions between student and faculty member and how much the student's own knowledge/experience could "drive" the research project. Will part of this project focus on mentoring skills and working with research mentors so that they are more attuned to this idea of the student's own funds of knowledge as a motivating force for the research? If so, I would be very interested to learn more about how you hope to work with research mentors.

     
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  • Icon for: Laleh Cote

    Laleh Cote

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 04:15 a.m.

    Matt, you bring up a very good point, and this is something that I have been committed to since the inception of the project back in Summer 2018. It is crucial for researchers to be a part of this project - if we don’t have buy-in from researchers who will mentor students, the implementation of the ideas generated by this work will be impossible.


    So, yes, students will be guided to combine their existing funds of knowledge with their interest in STEM (if they have not yet begun to conduct researcher), or their newly-gained STEM skills (if they are beginning-level researchers) to come up with new research questions, lines of research that branch off of the faculty/researcher’s work, etc. My vision is that students will need to get buy-in from community members, in the form of critical feedback on their ideas. The “driven” idea is to get at the fact that students are already motivated by their lived experiences when they enter college, and so I don’t think that this will be a stretch to have them tap into those issues/topics that are already on their mind - the key is to present it in a way that is valued by researchers. They will also get feedback from researchers about the feasibility of the project, alignment with resources, etc. I haven’t yet gone through a cycle of this with students, so I am not sure how it will go from there. But, I think it’s best for students to co-create knowledge EARLIER than grad school applications - WAY earlier than that!


    As for how I'm going to work with mentors, I am going to do some surveys/interviews this summer in order to figure that out.

  • Icon for: Ellis Bell

    Ellis Bell

    Researcher
    May 15, 2019 | 06:53 p.m.

    Laleh,

    This sounds like a great project. the focus of your current work seems to be on faculty mentored research opportunities. Have you thought of including CURE type experiences as well

     
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  • Icon for: Laleh Cote

    Laleh Cote

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 07:17 p.m.

    Actually, no, this work is not focused solely on faculty lab UREs. We will be collecting data and information about student experiences in UREs in faculty labs, at scientific facilities (non-university), and also in CUREs. I will be piloting some materials generated by this work in the Plant & Microbial Biology department at UC Berkeley, and there is also some interest in the Chemistry department, as well.


    Thanks for bringing up CUREs, as they are a very important part of the discussion about undergraduate research, especially when we are talking about access in higher education.

  • Icon for: Peg Cagle

    Peg Cagle

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 03:21 a.m.

    Your project is taking on an important task in seeking to diversify STEM education and STEM fields. Your video narrative poses compelling questions about the root causes for the disconnect between historically underrepresented community college students and science research opportunities. I am curious if you have looked at any connections between this lack of hands-on bench science opportunities and their preparation in mathematics.  The 2012 PCAST report "Engage to Excel" looked at undergraduate STEM education, and identified entry level math courses as a leading reason that vast numbers of incoming STEM-intending majors did not complete a STEM degree.  I wonder if math remediation, which occurs for many community college students, might be better accomplished through engagement in situated learning experiences such as those found imbedded in UREs, rather than through traditional non-credit bearing beginning math courses.

     
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    Laleh Cote
  • May 17, 2019 | 12:37 p.m.

    Peg, you bring up a good point. I am at a more selective school, so words like "remediation" and "developmental" are taboo. Yet a growing group of our students come in with gaps in background or preparation that we need to address for them to succeed in other courses. If we cannot say outright, "you are ready in most areas, but need some help getting up to the level we want in this one area (usually math)", how do we help students succeed? I like your idea of taking the URE approach instead of a traditional course.

    I can hear the opposing view already: "students can't do the work yet, so it's a waste of time." We know from experience that if you engage students' excitement by connecting to their experiences, they can do better. Several years back, we had a program that identified high school kids on track to fail 10th grade biology/EOG test, and probably drop out of school. We brought them in and let them do college level lab biology with help from TAs. Basically, we got them excited about biology again by exploring biology in their realm of experience, and eliminating the grading pressure to perform. The students went back to their home schools and enrolled in honors biology (which none planned to take originally) with support from a college-age tutor for 1 year.  Out of 4 cohorts in the program, just one student did not graduate high school; 79 students with a high probability of dropping out persisted, and all passed the next grade level biology test at a level equal to the general county average.

    Laleh, I like what you responded with to Matt; the mentoring aspect can make or break this kind of student experience.

  • Icon for: Laleh Cote

    Laleh Cote

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 06:52 p.m.

    Peg, this is an interesting idea, but this is not something that I've looked at in my own work. We have a lot of math education researchers at UC Berkeley, though, and I could ask some of my colleagues about it.

    A. Daniel, I have seen some similar things in data, correlations between students engagement in research, and how this motivates them to raise their achievement goals, and also allows them to understand concepts in their coursework more deeply.

    Certainly, if we can create/foster/support links between undergraduate research and their lived experiences, we can enhance the benefits these students gain from participation in UREs, CUREs, etc.

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.