Student engagement in class is a major point of discussion across the world with studies suggesting different ways in which students could be motivated to participate more in classroom activities.
One such study was carried out in the Utah where scientist have suggested use of personal biological data to have a profound positive impact on learning experience of students. The study published in journal PLOS ONE reveals that students with access to data about their own microbiome — the trillions of tiny microorganisms that live in a person’s gut, mouth and skin — are significantly more engaged and more interested in course material.
Microbiomes are influenced by diet and lifestyle, and are vital to a person’s health, as they can protect against disease. As scientists have learned more about their impact on our health, microbiomes have become an increasingly popular topic of study (See Ed Yong’s NYT Bestseller, “I Contain Multitudes.”).
For their study, researchers monitored the attitudes of juniors and seniors from 400-level science courses. At the beginning of the semester, students were given the option to use their own personal information gained through a microbiome kit, or they could use demo data. Most students chose to use the kits.
Students took swabs of areas on their bodies (including their mouth, skin, gut and nose) and submitted the kits to the company uBiome to be tested. Once their microbiome data was sequenced, the students were able to log into an account and look at either the raw data, which they could use for further research, or the analysis given about their microbiomes.
A survey was sent to the students before, during and after the microbiome unit to determine how and if their interest and engagement was affected. Students who analyzed their own microbiome data reported spending 31 percent more time researching the microbiome than students who used demo data. Students who used the kits also had increased confidence in their scientific reasoning ability and data interpretation skills and found the overall course significantly more interesting and engaging.