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Competition to get in shape firms up research skills

January 15, 2010
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Students taking “REC 705 Research Methods” organized a four-week Biggest Loser competition during the fall semester to apply what they had learned in the course and encourage members of the campus community to get in shape.

“There were two purposes of this course: First, to equip students with the ability to critically evaluate proposed or implemented research studies; the second aim was to provide students with the knowledge and skills that enabled them to develop and implement a small-scale research study,” explained Dr. Carol Riddick, the physical education and recreation professor who taught the class.

In the first half of the semester, each class was devoted to reviewing and discussing technical material related to conducting scientific research. Students presented on their readings and then had a discussion or other in-class activity to delve more into the topic. During these classes, Riddick often shared stories, vignettes, and case studies about real-world research from her own 30 years of experience or others’ work. In the second part of the semester, students had a chance to develop their own case study.

The research project the students used was a weight loss competition similar to that of the NBC reality show “The Biggest Loser.” “This provided an opportunity for students to apply the principles and ideas they had read about in the text and engaged in class,” said Riddick. “They learned about why Institutional Review Board approval is important; how to recruit prospective study participants and deal with unexpected interest as well as study participant attrition how to collect, store, retrieve, and make sense of data and how to prepare and conduct a professional presentation (including how to deal with ‘difficult’ questions) to both participants and academics.”

Participant recruitment proved easy. Within 90 minutes of the start of registration, 25 teams of three members–students, staff, and/or faculty–signed up to participate. The students then selected four teams and asked each team to identify a goal. Three teams chose to lose weight, and one wanted to shape up their abdomens.

The outcome also offered a pleasant experience. All of the teams succeeded in meeting their goals, and hence were all declared  winners at a semester-end presentation on December 8. The team that experienced the most dramatic change was “Dog Pound,” whose members received free registration for an exercise class offered by the Department of Physical Education and Recreation during the spring semester.

15 January 2010

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