Summary Slides From Final Plenary Session AAAS Conference on Transforming Undergraduate Biology Education July 17, 2009 Washington DC
What are the most important things in your development as a life scientist (or other professional goal)? Critical Thinking Skills:How to select/identify relevant issues and apply the fundamentals of the scientific method to real-life situations. “Having a broad base of knowledge without knowing how to apply it doesn’t go very far.” Research experiences and/or designing your own experiments:Engaging in some level of research experiences is important for all students to build critical skills and explore their interest in science. Analytical Skills: All students should have an understanding of how to analyze data, interpret findings, and use statistics appropriately. Communication Skills: Strong communication skills, including both writing skills and public speaking skills, are critical. Students should be able to communicate science to both scientists and non-scientists. “It doesn’t matter what you know if you can’t express it to someone else, either in your field or someone who isn’t familiar with it at all.”
What excites you most in a learning environment? • Being challenged • Two-way conversations between faculty and students • Tie what I’m learning into the Big Picture: • Why is this important? • Where did this come from? (original literature) • Where does this fit into real life? • How does this relate to things I’m learning in other classes? • Analogies, NOT Jargon • Getting to apply what you learned
What excites you LEAST in a learning environment? • Professors who… • Use bad PowerPoints • Give lectures in a monotone voice or use jargon/unknown terms to explain something • Give endless lists (“This leads to this leads to this…”) • Give you lists of facts without connecting them • Don’t respond, put you off, or are inaccessible • Are clearly not into teaching • Use small group discussions as an excuse not to teach anything • Don’t communicate clearly (language, style, writing) • Don’t give exams back, give exams back late, give no explanation of what the right answer was, or re-use tests that don’t relate to what was done in class • Teach the same course number as another colleague but with entirely different requirements • Use assignments that have already been disseminated on the Internet. • Fellow students who… • Allow cut-throat competition to take away from learning (emphasis on grades)
Group 1 Overarching and Unifying Key Concepts and Competencies
Overarching and unifying key concepts and competencies (blue dots!) Concepts Evolution dynamics Energy and matter Structure and Function Information – flow, exchange, storage Systems – control and feedback at all levels of organization Competencies Process and nature of science Interdisciplinarity Communication and Collaboration Quantitative competency Science and Society All core concepts andcompetencies should be fostered throughout the curriculum. Students should gain competency in all these areas but an expectation of expertise in only some of these.
Summary Points • Distribution requires: • Faculty development opportunities focused on iterative course and curriculum design are required. • Community of educators to share resources and expertise is required • Implementation on campuses: • Useful for institutions to develop concept maps in the design process to map how students experience introduction and expansion of these concepts through the curriculum. • Challenge: • Existing textbooks are impediments to reform efforts.
Group 2 Student Centered Learning
Student-Centered Learning Facilitators: Pratibha Varma-Nelson Hal White Michelle Withers
Capturing the faculty voice “It’s not as hopeless as it seemed before coming here” “Maintain a sense of wonder” “Take biology out of the realm of the abstract and relate it to the real world”
Distilling the take-home points Learn science by doing science. Make it: active, outcome-oriented, inquiry-driven, authentic, and relevant. Give them ongoing, effective feedback. Engage the passion.
Capturing the student voice Engage us Challenge us Make it relevant to us Give us ownership Infect us with your enthusiasm Excite us with the natural world Make your goals transparent to us
Group 3 Assessing Student Learning
Assessment: Now • Commonly used assessments focus on narrowly defined content -- not conceptual understanding and the practice of science • Assessments often not aligned with desired outcomes (goals/objectives) • Insights are often limited or expanded by the nature of the assessment.
Assessment: what we need to know Degree to which specific pedagogical approaches achieve desired learning outcomes Data to inform instruction at multiple levels: individual courses, multiple sections of courses, entire degree program.
Assessment Align with course/curricular goals and objectives Develop elements and conceptual frameworks for assessment Disseminate exemplars and use best practices Use a range of assessment types Assess with rigor
Student self-assessment Students must learn how to use assessments as a diagnostic tool. Instructor must model and practice this with the students.
Use assessment to improve teaching Assessment data should drive instructional decisions at course level and curricular decisions. Assessments must be rigorous
From assessment to research on learning Support system for scholarly work in teaching and learning Process is similar to how scientific research is conducted, with special attention to human subject.
Group 4 Innovations in Integrating Scientific Research Experiences Across the Curriculum
Starting point • Research experiences should be an integral component of biology education for both majors and non-majors. • Research experiences need to start early in an undergraduate career.
What to do • Students should be introduced to aspects of the scientific process in all biology courses. • Specific learning goals related to research experiences should be defined. • Assessments should be employed to measure attainment of learning goals.
Where to begin • Multiple examples exist for involving both small and large groups of students in research. • Participants expressed a desire for accessible online databases of curricular materials, assessments, and examples of successful projects.
Group 5 Toolkits to Support the Change
A. Cool Tools Support inquiry, collaboration Provide current, relevant context Foster authentic research experiences Include learning outcomes
B BBB Search like Google Recommend like Amazon Vet like Consumer Reports Annotate like Wikipedia Web 2.0 will help
Group 6 Implementing Innovations and Assessing Their Impact
Implementation • Interested faculty and supportive administrators • Culture of engagement (Compelling vision) • Involved leadership at all levels • Communication flow (both ways) • Relevance to students e.g. social issues, timeliness • Incentives for faculty • Transparency of the process • Appropriate physical environment, facilities • Reliable assessment and evaluation to identify needs and effectiveness • Coordination among different learning communities
Assessment • Formative assessment is important for informing you about your program. • Assessment also needed to provide information to garner administrative, faculty and student support. This form might be different than what is needed for external financial support and scholarly publications. • Training in assessment for those who are engaged in effecting change. Not just depending on the hired expert. • National database of assessment tools; listed by objectives of activity • Tools: Student attitudes—SERU (Student Engagement at Research Universities), NSSE, need to be able to mine these data to understand more about our students; SALG; CLA (collegiate learning assessment), case-based, evaluation of student ability to critically evaluate and write problem/topic (Mark Chun) • Student research—currently much is student self-reported; rubrics for faculty to evaluate student learning gains; IMMEX (originally from immunology), online, complex problems, cluster into learning efficiencies, gains (UCLA)
Group 7 Preparing Faculty
Preparing Faculty Group Summary: • There are existing limitations on the ways in which faculty are prepared to teach biology, such as lack of educational/pedagogical training. Our group identified various strategies for overcoming these limitations. • These strategies require proper evaluation and assessment tools to ensure their effectiveness for continual improvement and enhancement. • Implementation to address faculty teaching requires input by various stakeholders
2 Strategies we want to highlight • To change the culture to value teaching and mentoring through action by all stakeholders (funding agencies, societies, academic institutions, accreditation boards, faculty, and students) • To develop and grow communities of scholars (students, postdocs, faculty, and admin) who are committed to creating, using, assessing, and disseminating effective practices in teaching and learning
To implement change what additional resources and tools are needed? • Visionary leaders: provided support to accomplish change/Exchange Program • More financial resources from funders and more time to develop and implement successful and/or innovative practices for cultural change • Budget line item in all grants (research and others) to focus on teaching • Point person(s) in department/institution to focus on evaluation of teaching, with reporting back for continual improvement • Better instruments to evaluate teaching and learning and where to get them • Intramural and extramural partnerships between Science and Education researchers • Workshops/ institutes/meetings, etc. to learn ‘best practices’ • Create a single point of access/portal that’s a searchable database.
Group 8 Changing Institutional Approaches
Promoting Institutional Change Group 8 Potential change agents: Administrators @ Professional Societies * Faculty # Funding agencies $ Students & • Needed changes: • Raise profile of science education in the discipline (@ # * $) • Increase recognition and reward for educational efforts (@ & *) • Increase opportunities for professional development at all career stages - graduate level through the professoriate (@ * $)
Promoting Institutional Change Group 8 Barriers to change: We have met the enemy, and the enemy are us! - Walt Kelly