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Challenges of biology education for the 21st century - beyond bio2010 symposium, may 21, 2010
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Challenges of biology education for the 21st century - beyond bio2010 symposium, may 21, 2010


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Dr. Jay Labov, from the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council, talks about how undergraduate biology education must change to meet the challenges of the 21st century

Dr. Jay Labov, from the National Academy of Sciences and National Research Council, talks about how undergraduate biology education must change to meet the challenges of the 21st century

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  • SO WHY CHANGE AND WHY NOW? The 21 st century will be the century of biology – we are in the midst of a revolution in what we understand about life on earth, and in the tools we use to gain this understanding. And there are urgent challenges facing society that intersect with the life sciences and that are well described in the new NRC report – A New Biology for the 21 st Century. The last century has not only given us new tools and knowledge in the biological sciences – writ large. It has also given us new tools and insights about how people learn. It’s time to make sure our biology courses and curricula reflect the best of what our science has to offer, and that they reflect the best of what we know about how to connect teaching with learning. What Stands in the Way ? Perhaps the answer lies in how our disciplines are defined and our institutions of higher education are organized. Biology is a rather fragmented discipline with ever more subspecialties emerging every decade since the early 1900’s. Adding to this fragmentation is the fact that biologists do not come together regularly under the umbrella of one professional organization. We meet as molecular biologists or ecologists, or as microbiologists or physiologists in our professional home societies, but rarely do we come together with a common purpose at life scientists. And the way people pursue higher education is changing too – with more and more people starting in two-year colleges and pursuing some of their training with distance education methods. These students expect their education to be relevant and relate to real life. And the future research enterprise depends on them having a disposition for and experience in collaborating on interdisciplinary problems. These are all challenges for higher education in the coming years. With this backdrop, it really is astounding that the vision and change initiative brought 100’s of life scientists came together who represented a broad array of subdisciplines and types of institutions. And their singular focus was on what is needed to foster biological literacy and to prepare the next generation of life scientists and citizens.
  • SO WHAT ABOUT STUDENT – CENTERED CLASSROOMS and learning outcomes ? We have made patchy progress on campuses to make courses more student-centered and to better link teaching with learning outcomes. And there is still much work to do in this arena. A clear message is that we need to do a better job of linking our teaching to student learning though carefully considered assessment. We are researchers after all – we have an opportunity to use classroom research methods and data to improve and enhance learning. Making this linkage is key to igniting a passion for learning biology in all of our students.
  • Among the many voices represented are those of students. The students at the meeting had a lot to say about their education. They want to be challenged, and to learn how to think and communicate. They want real research experiences. And they want what they are learning to be relevant and connected to real life. And the action items listed in the report reflect their perspective.
  • Truly a profound cultural change is needed to improve biology education on many campuses around the country. A clear message from the conference is that it is high time for institutions to walk the talk of valuing teaching and raising the profile of education within science departments. It is in the interest of the students, the departments, the campus, and the future of the academy.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Challenge s of Undergraduate Biology Education for the 21st Century THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine National Research Council Jay Labov National Academy of Sciences National Research Council Washington, DC [email_address] AAAS Community College Forum Lessons Learned About Biotechnology Education February 17, 2011
      • To advance science and technology
      • To advise government
        • on applications of science and engineering to policy
        • on policy for science, engineering, and health care
      • Added to the end of the Act, “ ... shall, whenever called upon by any department of the Government, investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art ... ”
      • “ ... but the Academy shall receive no compensation whatever for any services to the Government of the United States. ”
    • 4. As a result of the charter’s restrictions, the U.S. National Academies are a private, non-profit organization that is independent from the U.S. Government and whose work depends on volunteers.
      • Sources of studies:
      • Federal Government (Congress, Agencies)
      • States
      • Private Sources (e.g., Foundations)
      • Internal support (endowments)
      • Board-generated proposals
      For access to all National Academies’ reports:
    • 5.  
    • 6.  
    • 7. Premise 1:
      • Improving Undergraduate Science Education is Not Rocket Science
    • 8. Premise 1:
      • Improving Undergraduate Science Education is Not Rocket Science
      • It’s a LOT harder!
    • 9.
      • “ A good hockey player plays where the puck is.
      • A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”
      Premise 2: Wayne Gretzky
    • 10.
      • Given the radical changes in the nature of the science of biology and what we have learned about effective ways to teach, this is an opportune time to address the biology we teach so that it better represents the biology we do.
      • – Transforming Undergraduate Education in Biology: Mobilizing the Community for Change , Vision and Change in Undergraduate Education.
    • 11. NRC Board on Life Sciences (2003) Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists
    • 12. NRC Board on Life Sciences (2009). A New Biology for the 21 st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution American Association for the Advancement of Science National Science Foundation (2010) Vision and Change in Undergraduate Education National Research Council (2002) Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools NRC Board on Life Sciences (2003 ) Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists
    • 13.
    • 14. A New Biology for the 21 st Century: Addressing & Affecting Urgent Problems
      • FOOD: Nearly a billion undernourished in ’07; still increasing, especially where the food supply is already inadequate
      • ENVIRONMENT: Human activities are stressing, altering and destroying ecosystems on which we rely
      • ENERGY: Transportation fuels depend almost fully on limited non-renewable resources
      • HEALTH: Healthcare decisions based on statistics; rely on costly technologies that may not benefit a given individual
    • 15. A New Biology for the 21 st Century: 4 areas of interdisciplinary focus
      • Food
        • Generate food plants to adapt and grow sustainably in changing environments
      • Environment
        • Understand and sustain ecosystem function and biodiversity in the face of rapid change
      • Energy
        • Expand sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels
      • Health
        • Understand individual health
    • 16. A New Biology for the 21 st Century: Why Now?
      • A moment of unique opportunity –
      • Integration of subdisciplines within biology
      • Cross-discipline integration: life science research by physical, computational, earth scientists, engineers
      • Technological advances enable biologists to collect data unprecedented in quantity and quality
      • Past investments providing value beyond what was expected
    • 17. A New Biology for the 21 st Century: Findings
      • The New Biology Initiative provides an opportunity to attract students to science who want to solve real-world problems.
      • The New Biologist is not a scientist who knows a little bit about all disciplines, but a scientist with deep knowledge in one discipline and a “working fluency” in several.
      • Highly developed quantitative skills will be increasingly important.
      • Development and implementation of genuinely interdisciplinary undergraduate courses and curricula will both prepare students for careers as New Biology researchers and educate a new generation of science teachers well versed in New Biology approaches. (p. 89)
    • 18. WHY CHANGE? WHY NOW?
      • Biology is in transition
      • Science education is in transition
      • Society is in transition
      • Increasing need for both broadly educated, integrative biology professionals as well as biologically literate citizens
      • Education must change to meet the potentials and demands of the new biology and to realize the promise of science to society in the future
      C. Brewer, U MT, 2/2010
    • 19.
    • 20. Student-Centered Classrooms and Learning Outcomes
      • Introduce scientific process early and integrate it throughout all undergraduate biology courses
      • Research experiences should be an integral component of biology education for all students, regardless of major
      • Active, outcome-oriented, inquiry-driven and relevant courses
      • Define learning goals and align assessments to focus on conceptual understanding - use data to improve and enhance learning
      • Ignite the passion for learning in our students
      C. Brewer, U MT, 2/2010
    • 21.
      • Engage us
      • Challenge us
      • Help us develop critical thinking, analytical and communication skills
      • Provide opportunities for research experiences and/or designing our own experiments
      • Use analogies , NOT jargon
      • Make learning relevant
      • Give us ownership of our learning
      • Infect us with your enthusiasm about the natural world
      • Make your learning goals transparent to us
      And Most Importantly: What Students Said… … Tie what we’re learning into the Big Picture. Why is this important? Where did this come from (i.e., original literature)? Where does it fit in real life? And how does this relate to what we’re learning in other classes? …. C. Brewer, U MT, 2/2010 Frederico Unglaub, Student, Universityersity of Colorado
    • 22. AP Redesign Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Physics (2013-16)
      • Science Panels
        • Big Ideas / Unifying Themes
        • Enduring Understandings
        • Competencies
        • Evidence Models (Formative Assessments)
      • Evidence of Learning
      • The student can use representations and models to communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems.
      • The student can use mathematics appropriately
      • The student can engage in scientific questioning
      • The student can perform data analysis and evaluation of evidence
      • The student can work with scientific explanations and theories
      • The student is able to transfer knowledge across various scales, concepts, and representations in and across domains
    • 23. AAMC/HHMI Committee Defines Scientific Competencies for Future Physicians
      • Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians recommends that medical and premedical education evolve from a static listing of courses to a dynamic set of competencies…This … will encourage the development of innovative and interdisciplinary science curricula, maintain scientific rigor, and allow premed students at the undergraduate level the flexibility to pursue a strong liberal arts education.
      • Association of American Medial Colleges & Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      • June, 2009
    • 24. In a great irony, the academy itself may be the last obstacle to improving the quality of biology education for all students. Thus, raising the profile of science education within biology departments and ensuring that the academic culture values both faculty teaching and student learning should be everyone’s highest priorities, truly a cultural change on many campuses. C. Brewer, U MT, 2/2010