D3 Resources for Teachers

A fundamental component of D3 is the integration of education and innovation. Teachers know that students are often more eager to learn when they see a direct connection between what they are being taught and the ability to solve an important problem. For D3 the challenge is finding drug leads for neglected diseases and the problem solving skills are multidisciplinary.

D3-Enabled Procedures

Synthesis Lab Technique Videos

This site seeks to provide you with a perspective on the multiple scientific disciplines involved in neglected disease drug discovery, and the tools you will need to teach your specific discipline while addressing a pressing humanitarian need.

                What is the impact of the D3 project?

The evaluation study of the Distributed Drug Discovery (D3) program was conducted by the Center for Urban and Multicultural Education (CUME) in collaboration with the PIs. Qualitative and quantitative approaches were used to best capture the impact of enrollment in the D3 lab versus the control group (performing a common biologically-related organic laboratory, synthesis of DEET). This evidence was used to determine if students in D3 exhibited increased perceptions or performance. Results from the various assessment measures are summarized below.

 

Survey. Students were asked to rate their perceptions of the D3 and control labs at the end of each semester. All eight items were scored on a 5-point Likert Scale (5 = Strongly Disagree to 1 = Strongly Agree, inverted scoring). Table 1 shows mean scores, standard deviations, and mean differences between the control group (n = 99) and experimental group (n = 86) on each item. Overall, students of the experimental group had higher levels of appraisal toward their program on all survey items. Independent t-tests for each question indicated differences in the mean between the two groups on items 2 and 4-8 were statistically significant (p < 0.05). It was evident that the experimental group found the experience more interesting and relevant to real world applications.

 

Table 1. Survey items

Exp. Group n=86

Ctrl. Group n=99

Mean Diff.

1. Participation in this program was a positive experience for me

1.77 (0.71)

1.92 (0.75)

0.15

2.This program was interesting and engaging.

1.79 (0.78)

1.99 (0.79)

0.20*

3.I successfully learned the intended content material through this program.

2.01 (0.80)

2.12 (0.76)

0.11

4.This program allowed me to solve real world problems

1.93 (0.84)

2.37 (0.91)

0.44*

5.The material I learned in the course is relevant to real world applications.

1.44 (0.59)

1.83 (0.72)

0.39*

6.This program was superior to other lab experiences I have had.

2.14 (1.12)

2.63 (1.09)

0.49*

7.This program was more interesting and engaging than other lab experiences I have had.

2.03 (1.08)

2.57 (1.14)

0.54*

8.This program was more relevant to real world applications than other lab experiences I have had.

1.51 (0.82)

2.11 (0.84)

0.50*

 

Focus Groups. Students’ feedback addressed the benefit, impact, and acquired knowledge of D3.

Benefit. Students indicated that they 1) obtained better understandings of various areas of knowledge in chemistry; 2) obtained hands-on research experiences; and 3) learned to think autonomously.

Impact. Students indicated multiple impacts on their academic growths and professional pursuits. They expressed a sense of doing something meaningful. Specifically, participants indicated that the program 1) strengthened their motivations in pursuing their preset goals of professional development; 2) provided opportunities for them think critically and to transfer basic research to applied knowledge; 3) delivered knowledge regarding procedures of drug development, thus providing a bigger picture for them to see their positions in relation to the larger world.

Acquired knowledge. When asked, “What you’ve learned that you didn’t know before,” participants were able to articulate many insightful gains. These gains were: 1) seeing how projects are integrated and interrelated; 2) learning to deal with the unknown and increasing tolerance of dealing with uncertainty; 3) learning to be more patient, more precise, more accurate, and more balanced.

 

Interviews. The researcher began a preliminary analysis at the end of Fall 2012 and continued to gather data in the coming semesters. The researcher searched for themes that emerged from the data gathered through observations and interviews. For these analyses, the researcher extracted coded text passages of interviewees’ perceptions reflecting strengths and challenges of the D3 Program. These passages were then analyzed for themes. The researcher than reread the transcripts to search for quotes (not included) that supported or invalidated each interviewee’s perceptions of the program.

Strengths. Based on the data derived from the interviews,themes regarding the strengths of the D3 program consist of 1) its interdisciplinary nature that enhances openness to novelty; 2) its growth-oriented nature that encourages autonomous learning and scientific imagination; and 3) its humanitarian value that intends to promote relatedness for deepening learning motivations.

Challenges. The following details themes regarding challenges noted by interviewee. These include 1) students’ sense of competence; 2) the instructional adjustment attempting to create an optimal level of challenge for student learning; 3) time constraints; and 4) the difficulties of meeting multiple standards as well as tailoring the program to fit individual student learning capacity.

 

Open-Ended Content Questions. Students were asked several content-based questions for the D3 and control lab at the end of each experiment. All four items were scored by teaching assistants on a 4-point scale (4 = exceptional knowledge to 1 = no knowledge) based on model answers by faculty. Table 2 shows mean scores, standard deviations, and mean differences between the control group (n = 87) and experimental group (n = 86) on each item. Overall, participants of the experimental group had higher scores on items 1 and 2. Independent t-tests for each question indicated differences in the mean between the two groups on items 2 and 4 were statistically significant (p <0.05). It was evident that D3 students were better able to envision the utility of their lab to the world around them, possibly with a greater understanding of the drug discovery process. However, the complexity of the experiment made it difficult for students to relate their past experiences to the interdependent nature of chemical problem-solving (Q3) and to rationalize their data to develop significant outcomes (Q4).

 

Table 2. Open-Ended Content Questions

Exp. Group n=86

Ctrl. Group n=87

Mean Diff.

1.Why are knowledge and skills in both chemistry and biology required in drug discovery?

3.42 (0.73)

3.25 (0.78)

0.17

2.Why is the chemistry used in this experiment important to the world around us?

3.22 (0.87)

2.97 (0.80)

0.25*

3.In what ways did this experiment help you understand the interdependent need, when solving real-world problems, to apply the many principles of chemistry you've learned up to this point in your academic career?

2.88 (1.06)

2.97 (0.97)

-0.09

4.Explain how the analytical data you obtained helped lead to your conclusions toward the experiment’s outcome.

2.59 (1.03)

2.90 (1.02)

-0.31*

 

In sum, the D3 program was thought to have positive impacts on science education through promoting student self-growth and motivating student learning by its humanitarian values with practical connections to the real world. In addition, it was thought to encourage autonomy and relatedness in students. Yet, at the same time, there is still room to enhance students’ competence by programmatic adjustments. Interviewees participating in the qualitative study unanimously praised and supported the program all the while admitting that there was room for improvement.


The qualitative results indicate that stakeholders of the program placed a strong emphasis on student self-growth in learning science through autonomy and relatedness, and the design of the program was not only interdisciplinary but also organismic as it ecologically connected to students, scholars, and hopefully benefiters (people with overlooked diseases) globally. Though the D3 program was thought to meaningfully carry the real world connections and humanitarian values among interviewees, it was unknown how students would make the D3 program meaningful to themselves. As one of the interviewees pointed out that the value of discovering drugs for overlooked diseases in Africa might be too distal to American undergraduate students, this point might serve as a reminder to scientists as well as educators that what is meaningful to one person is not necessarily meaningful to another. Asking students to make the D3 program meaningful to themselves may entail thinking about how certain parts of the information remind them of their past and present experiences or future-self imaginations, how the D3 program values could be important to each of the individuals, or finding importance of the D3 story (helping other people and being a part of a large problem-solving project) to be related to someone or something else. If students were simply expected to believe in the D3 values, it is likely that there could be a conflict between the demand of the interjected D3 program values and the students’ lack of desire to carry the values. As a result, a program expectation that “good-will” will serve as meaningful motivation may remain extrinsic rather than intrinsic. It is possible that, if students have been given opportunities to identify with the given D3 values, this could better support student ownership of and engagement with such a motivational framework.

 

It is also speculated that the D3 experiment procedures and learning might be similar to most of other tasks that are not inherently pleasant or unpleasant, but students’ concerns of receiving good/bad grades were typical. However, underneath their typical concerns there might be an assumption of the inherently pleasant/unpleasant values assigned to the D3 program. The fear of negative evaluation may have colored much of the learning experience to students; as so, some students might distance themselves from learning science in order to protect their sense of competence. Adding the motives such as doing it to earn good grades or getting the “right” outcomes (e.g., “Will the compound work?”) may also turn enjoyable learning of coursework into an unpleasant experience.  The challenges mentioned above, nevertheless, would serve as potential opportunities to make a greater impact on science education as the D3 program continues to evolve.

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