Faculty Perspectives: Minna Ng
Minna Ng, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Psychology and Neuroscience
Bass Connections Project Team: Impacts of Collaborative Learning in STEM
Minna Ng has led Bass Connections project teams since 2019. She also teaches Bass Connections courses in the Brain & Society theme, such as Intersections of the Sexual Brain and Educational Neuroscience. Her 2020-2021 project team is investigating the effects of teamwork in both online and in-person class formats and comparing those to traditional lecture courses.
Below are excerpts from Ng’s remarks at a Spring 2021 Bass Connections orientation for team leaders.
“How do we improve the learning experience for all students?” asked Ng. “Increase retention in STEM, make the classroom a better place and raise motivation, engagement and belonging.”
On her team, Ng examined the role of collaborative and active learning. She said the students did a lot of the teaching. Students were assigned to special groups based on their interests and remained in these groups for the entire semester. To ensure the groups ran fluidly, students were invited to submit anonymous peer evaluations.
Students ranged across different disciplines and brought diverse interests, but all shared an interest in teaching and education research.
Choosing the Right Team
When interviewing students for Bass Connections projects, Ng noted the importance of asking about their future plans. This could help identify the career interests of potential team members and whether the project could prepare them for that.
After speaking with other team leaders, Ng discovered that finding the right project manager was one of the most important things faculty should know. The project manager catalyzes and catalogs everything. On Ng’s team, the project manager helped conduct two weekly meetings with the entire team and an additional meeting with all of the team leaders.
Staying Connected and Making the Most of Meetings
One of the tips she gave to faculty was to stay connected to the Bass Connections administrative staff. They were often available to provide guidance or answer questions Ng had.
Ng and her team try to make their meetings fun and productive. They begin and end each meeting in meaningful ways. Each meeting starts with a fun activity led by the students. They take turns choosing the activity. This engages team members with each other before the formal “business” even begins. At the end of the meetings, they set clear deliverables for each of the students. This gives them goals for the following week. Throughout the week, the project manager checks in with students about the deliverables and provides guidance if necessary.
See other faculty perspectives and learn how you can get involved in Bass Connections.