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Bethel College psychology department receives NSF grant

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- A recent National Science Foundation grant awarded to Bethel College will help promote research collaboration between beginning and advanced students in the sciences. The NSF awarded Bethel $31,357 over three years to purchase equipment and computer software for psychophysiological research, as well as to cover faculty, administrative and student research costs.

Psychophysiology is "the branch of psychology that typically involves the physiological measurement of subjects doing something psychologically interesting--for example, listening to different kinds of music," said Dwight Krehbiel, professor of psychology and principal investigator (PI).

"We have some equipment, but are getting more," Krehbiel added, "specifically a computer-based system for recording brain and muscle electrical activity, heart rate, sweat gland activity and skin temperature, as well as complementary equipment, including a laptop computer and an interface box."

The grant will pay half of the $34,514 that has been budgeted for equipment needs. Bethel College’s advancement staff has already raised most of the other half.

In considering Bethel’s grant proposal, NSF evaluators noted that the work in psychophysiological research was not unusual, but that what distinguished Bethel’s proposal was its goal of promoting "vertically integrated student research"--forming working groups of entry level students who would be led by upper level students.

The advanced students will serve as mentors and collaborators with the beginning students. The latter could come from designated "honors" sections of lower level students at Bethel or groups of high school students, said Krehbiel.

"This was applauded as being an innovative application of this approach to this [research] discipline," according to the summary evaluation by the NSF review panel. "The project will contribute to advancing knowledge within the field and could be transferred to other fields.

"The panel was particularly impressed with the collaborative relationships of the PI, which should also help in the implementation and broader impact of the activities," the summary continued. "The project will promote more involvement in advanced study among psychology students at Bethel College. The panel was also impressed with [Bethel College’s] community (e.g., high school) connection and extensions."

"We hope that vertically integrated student research will get students actively involved in inquiry, in doing the things that scholars do, rather than just sitting in class," Krehbiel said. The vertical integration approach assigns teaching roles to advanced students, he said, adding, "When you teach, you learn a lot."

In the grant proposal, $6,000 will go for student support, to pay modest stipends for students to do research both in the summer and during the academic year. The panel summary further noted: "It appears that though Bethel College is a relatively small school, the institution has provided a significant amount of support for research based learning environments."

The award came out of the NSF’s Division of Undergraduate Education, the Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement Program-Adaptation and Implementation. It was one of about 100 new CCLI-A&I awards projected to be made by the Division of Undergraduate Education this year, resulting from evaluation of 727 proposals submitted in December 2004. This is the fifth NSF grant awarded to Bethel College since 1990.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and in 2005 was named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report for the 8th straight year. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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