Podcasting Neuroscience: A Science Communication Assignment

Angel W. Kaur



Effective science communication has been identified as one of the core competencies of neuroscience education as articulated at the 2017 FUN Workshop.  Yet most undergraduate students do not receive explicit instruction on how to effectively communicate science to a diversity of audiences.  Instead, communication assignments typically help students become proficient at sharing scientific information with other scientists through research articles, poster presentations or oral presentations.  This presents a missed opportunity to instruct students on the complexities of communicating to the general public, the importance of which has come into sharp focus during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Translating research findings so they can be understood by a non-specialist audience requires practice and deep learning and can act as a powerful teaching tool to help students build science literacy skills.

Here I share the blueprint to a broadly-oriented science communication assignment built to address the core competencies of neuroscience education.  The assignment acts as the final project for a 400-level neuropharmacology course at a small public liberal arts university.  Students work in small groups to identify a topic of interest and research, script, and record an audio podcast geared towards a general audience.  The assignment is scaffolded to allow students to work towards the final submission in small steps and to receive feedback from the instructor and their peers.  These feedback steps pair with opportunities to revise their work to further develop students’ communication skills.  Initial feedback from students suggests the assignment promoted deeper learning and higher engagement with course content.