Active Learning and Community Engagement: Pedagogical Synergy through the “Mobile Neuroscience Lab” Project

Rebecca J. Gilbertson, Eric E. Hessler, and Dustyn J. Leff


The Mobile Neuroscience Lab is a project that facilitates combined pedagogical strategies of active learning and neuroscience outreach as a service learning component of a physiological psychology course.  The overall project goals were to improve science knowledge, foster oral communication, and encourage positive science attitudes and beliefs.  Of these goals, positive science attitudes and beliefs were assessed.  During active learning, university students completed hands-on activities corresponding to the physiological psychology course.  Following, during the neuroscience outreach activity (“learning through teaching”), university students and middle school students engaged in small group activities (one university student to five middle school students) using the same hands-on activities.  Assessment of the perceived benefit of the active learning showed that university and middle school students responded favorably to the hands-on activities.  Students’ science attitudes were also assessed (Hillman et al., 2016)
using a pre-test, post-test design.  Data showed that the neuroscience activity did not change middle school science attitudes and beliefs (p > .05), possibly as the science attitudes and beliefs were already positive (moderate to high) prior to the outreach activity.  However, qualitative data showed that the aspect of the neuroscience outreach activity that most assisted the middle school students in their learning was seeing the brain, touching the brain, and social interaction with the university students.  Overall, the pedagogical strategies of active learning, and “learning through teaching”, were received with enthusiasm by university and secondary education students.  Future studies will include classroom teachers’ assessment of these hands-on activities.

Teaching Neuroscience: Reviving Neuroanatomy, Notes on the 2022 Society for Neuroscience Professional Development Workshop on Teaching

Kaitlyn Casimo, Erika E. Fanselow, Marc Nahmani, Leonard E. White, and William Grisham


Students often find neuroanatomy a daunting exercise of rote memorization in a dead language.  This workshop was designed to enliven the teaching of neuroanatomy.  We recast the topic by extending it to the cellular and sub-cellular levels, animating it by learning to build a brain, and infusing the topic with the lively arts.  Due to COVID’s interference with the usual schedule of Society for Neuroscience (SfN) events, the 2021 Professional Development Workshop on Teaching was held as a webinar on April 12, 2022 with a follow-up question and answer session on June 7.  In this workshop, not only were innovative teaching methods presented, but also the very definition of neuroanatomy was pushed to the limits—even reaching into the molecular and subcellular level.  The presenters provided means of engaging students that were no cost, low cost, or well within the reach of most academic institutions.  Judging by the attendance, this webinar was quite successful in its goals.  Our speakers presented exciting and varied approaches to teaching neuroanatomy.  Kaitlyn Casimo presented how the vast resources of the Allen Institute could be employed. Marc Nahmani described
how open data resources could be utilized in creating a Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) on neural microanatomy.  Erika Fanselow presented novel ways to overcome one of students’ big hurdles in grasping neuroanatomy: understanding 3-D relationships.  Len White described a creative approach in teaching neuroanatomy by incorporating the humanities, particularly art and literature.  This article presents synopses of the presentations, which are written by the four presenters.  Additionally, prompted by questions from the viewers, we have constructed a table of our favorite resources.