The Fledgling Mindset

Preparing Biology Students to Leave the Academic Nest

  • Laura Cruz Schreyer Institute for Teaching and Learning at Penn State
  • Jennifer Meadows Tennessee Tech University
  • Nikki Panter Tennessee Tech University
Keywords: mindset; scientific communication; professional development; critical thinking; feedback


As Biology students prepare to complete their undergraduate degrees and continue into either a career or to another degree, the scientific skills learned in the classroom are not enough to secure their professional path. In this study, the soft skills such as the ability to work in a team and to communicate effectively were emphasized within the context of a newly designed Biology course. As a required course for majors within the Department of Biology, students represented a wide array of experiences, skill levels, and motivation. By adopting a guided inquiry approach to teaching and learning, instructors designed a student-centered course that focused on four categories of professional skills: problem solving, communication, teamwork, and career management. Data collected from student surveys were analyzed to determine the effectiveness of these interventions in enhancing student’s abilities and attitudes towards professional skills. These data suggest that students increased their proficiency in attributes valued by employers regardless of gender or major; became more likely to recognize those traits sought by employers; and gained confidence in their ability to use these skills in the workplace.