CASPiE the Friendly Ghost

TheCenter for Authentic Science Practice in Education” (CASPiE), as a part of the NSF’s Undergraduate Research Centers efforts received a 4-year, 2.5 million dollar grant starting August 15th, 2004 to introduce research rich experiences to first and second year college students. As part of their dissemination requirements they are holding a series of workshops to promote the CASPiE method to college instructors. I attended their first promotional workshop this past week at the University of Illinois, Chicago. The workshops participants enjoyed a hands-on experience working in the lab on the experiments that students in the CASPiE modules perform. It was fun to part of a workshop where we were in involved in doing science. They have developed at least 3 “modules” that would be appropriate for sophomore organic chemistry lab. A module is a series of 4 to 6 lessons that include skill-building labs and Peer Led Team Learning that culminate in the students participating in a research experiment that is part of a larger research project proposed by a principal investigator. It is a great way to introduce students to a research-rich undergraduate experience in organic laboratory. CASPiE participants have admittance into remote-access instrumentational analysis (GC-FID, GC-MS, FTIR, HPLC, and Raman) through Purdue University which is explained quite well in their website. The program is well thought-out, attentively organized, amply funded, and thoroughly assessed.

Even though it takes advantage of some open access friendly techniques such as remote-access instrumentation and mutlilab collaborative experiments, it is, unfortunately, not open science. Participation in the program requires a considerable commitment to following the scripted methodologies of the program. Content is only shared with an inner-circle of participants and not publically accessible. This can be easily ascertained from their website. Ostensibly, the reason for this secrecy is to allow the module’s principle investigator the proper control of her/his research project’s data. It’s a wonderful idea but the research aspect, in my opinion, is saddled with other requirements (such as the skill-building labs, 3-student teams, and peer-led team leaders) that do not necessarily enhance the quality of the research or the research experience. In addition, I do not see where the student-generated data is being fed back to the students themselves to help them see where they fit into the ongoing research program they are participating in.


One Comment

  1. Amy
    Posted November 25, 2008 at 8:32 pm | Permalink


    I found your blog via a Google search for CASPiE. I’m taking Orgo lab at UIC this semester. We did a CASPiE biodiesel module for our last two labs, and I was wondering what other people thought of the CASPiE approach.

    My experience was that CASPiE’s stated purpose and what actually transpired were two different things. I was under the impression students could modify the procedure, but we were not given that opportunity. And I don’t think CASPiE addresses the more basic problem of scientific illiteracy in our society. That’s my two cents.

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  1. […] laboratory this spring. I have seen antioxidant experiments in JCE and I performed one during the CASPiE Workshop a couple of years ago that has been reported in JCE by Burgess. So I have had this on my radar for […]

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