Bye-bye Bio 101: Teach science the way you do science

University science education needs reform, and effective methods are already known. Yet for years, many scientists and educators have actively resisted changing their teaching methods. Now, a group of persistent reformers is raising scientists' awareness of successful approaches to science teaching and providing them with tools to implement those strategies in their own classrooms and institutions.

"There is mounting evidence that supplementing or replacing lectures with active learning strategies and engaging students in discovery and scientific process improves learning and retention of knowledge," writes lead author Jo Handelsman, Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor and plant pathology researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in a policy forum article published in the April 23, 2004, issue of the journal Science.

Handelsman and her co-authors, including Peter J. Bruns, vice president for grants and special programs at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Shirley M. Tilghman, president of Princeton University and a former HHMI investigator, argue that outcome assessments demonstrate that students taught this way have better problem-solving ability, conceptual understanding, and success in subsequent science courses, when compared with students who learned in traditional, passive ways, they say.

Additional co-authors of the policy forum article are Jim Gentile, dean and former HHMI program director at Hope College; William Wood, University of Colorado at Boulder; Diane Ebert-May, Michigan State University; Robert Beichner, North Carolina State University; Amy Chang, American Society for Microbiology; Robert DeHaan, Emory University; James Stewart and Sarah Lauffer, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Numerous reports, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science's "Science for All Americans" in 1989 and "Bio 2010: Undergraduate Education to Prepare Biomedical Research Scientists," issued in 2002

Contact: Jennifer Donovan
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

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