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Education Report for July/August 2008

The AIBS Education Office provides analysis and communication for the AIBS Board, Headquarters Office, and Education Committee on issues of import to the AIBS membership and the larger scientific community. Reports are broadly disseminated by email every few months to AIBS membership leaders and contacts. Special reports are sent more frequently as needed. We have archived these reports here for your information and attention. Read about each report's contents below, then click to read the complete text.

Results of a Survey on Plant Pathology Education in America: Current Status and Future Challenges

The membership of the American Phytopathological Society (APS) has grown increasingly concerned about the future education of plant pathologists. In response to these concerns, the APS leadership formed an ad hoc committee in December, 2006, with the goal of developing a factual assessment of the current and projected educational situation. The committee conducted a detailed survey of (1) graduate students to determine what attracted them to plant pathology, what their career aspirations are, and how they view their educational experience; (2) the heads of graduate programs to determine curriculum requirements and the current and future areas of educational expertise; and (3) the employers of plant pathologists to determine how they perceive the training of graduate students, and their skill needs for the future. The results of the survey, “Plant Pathology Education in America: Current Status and Future Challenges: Parts 1, 2, and 3,” are available on the APS website in the form of a narrated PowerPoint: http://www.apsnet.org/webcasts/. For more information, contact Jim MacDonald: jdmacdonald@ucdavis.edu.

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New Assessment Database to Support Research on Undergraduate STEM Education

An assessment database to support research on undergraduate STEM education is being constructed that builds upon the activities of the Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching (FIRST II; http://first2.org). The database will support storing, searching, and analyzing assessment data from undergraduate STEM courses and will facilitate both data-driven instructional decisionmaking and research in science education. Faculty from all STEM disciplines will input and retrieve data from the database to explore questions about effective teaching and learning in undergraduate education. The database is designed to facilitate cross-institutional studies using assessment data from large numbers of students and courses. The database is the bridge between teaching and research that enables faculty to become both expert users of and contributors to the scholarship of scientific teaching. More information on the FIRST Assessment Database can be found online: http://first.ecoinformatics.org.

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New BioClub for Students

In August, 2008, the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) will announce the official launch of the new NABT BioClub. Recognizing that there are challenges to encouraging student interest in biological concepts, the NABT BioClub was formed to support teachers who are interested in starting biology clubs at their schools. The mission of the NABT BioClub is to “recruit, support, nurture, and promote students with an interest in biological sciences.” NABT will help teachers provide activities, resources, and guidance for their students. Twenty-one NABT BioClub chapters have already been formed, and NABT looks forward to welcoming other chapters in the coming academic year. Anyone interested in learning more can contact Jacki Reeves-Pepin, NABT Director of Development: 719.596.9782 or jreevespeping@nabt.org.

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Call for Examples: Evolution Across the Curriculum Project

The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent), an NSF-funded evolutionary biology research center, is sponsoring a working group made up of evolution educators and policymakers. The group is addressing the challenge of infusing evolution comprehensively throughout the biology curriculum, as opposed to presenting it as a self-contained topic distinct from and unrelated to all other disciplines of biology. The Evolution Across the Curriculum (EvAC) Working Group views evolution as a central and unifying concept that draws together all biological and life science disciplines, in keeping with Dobzhansky’s famous quotation: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” As such, EvAC’s primary goal is to promote the process of “thinking evolutionarily” by presenting any biological concept or process in the context of its evolutionary framework and history. EvAC’s initial approach to address this challenge is to develop a collection of exemplars that can be easily adopted into any general biology curriculum. These exemplars will focus on common, well-known examples of important biological concepts placed in a context of their origin and evolutionary history. EvAC recently convened a group of biology teachers and instructors from all levels (K-12, undergraduate, informal science education, etc.) to generate several prototype exemplars, and the group would welcome additional exemplars from the biological community. The working group members are Judy Scotchmoor, University of California Museum of Paleontology; Jay Labov, National Research Council; Adam Fagen, Life Sciences Board (NRC); Paul Beardsley, BSCS; Kristin Jenkins, NESCent; Jory Weintraub, NESCent; and Gordon Uno, University of Oklahoma and chair of AIBS Education Committee. For further information, please contact Gordon Uno (guno@ou.edu) or Judy Scotchmoor (jscotch@berkeley.edu) or the NESCent Education and Outreach staff.

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AIBS and NESCent Co-sponsor Evolution Symposium and Education Workshop at NABT Conference

AIBS and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) are co-sponsoring the fifth annual evolution symposium on Thursday, October 16th, at the National Association of Biology Teachers Professional Development Conference in Memphis, TN. The theme for the symposium is “Illuminating Biology: The Evolutionary Perspective.” Speakers will address the question of how an evolutionary perspective can contribute to and deepen understanding in specific biological disciplines. In addition to the symposium, NESCent is organizing an education workshop that will take place the following morning on Friday, October 17th. Conference registration is required to attend the symposium and workshop. Visit the NABT conference website for information on conference registration: www.nabt2008.org. To learn more details about the symposium and workshop, visit the AIBS website: www.aibs.org/special-symposia/.

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Teaching Resources from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)

Resources from the 2007 NABT Evolution Symposium “Evolution: Applications in Human Health and Populations,” including videos of the presentations and the complete content of the resource CD, are available for free at www.nescent.org/media/NABT.php#nabt2007. While on the NESCent website, be sure to check out the Evolution in the News stories and podcasts from NESCent and Understanding Evolution: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/news/newsarchive_01. This new series includes “Evolution’s Dating and Mating Game,” “The New Shrew That’s Not,” and “Superbug, super-fast evolution.” Look for more stories this fall.

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Human Anatomy and Physiology Society Institutes

The Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) offers an institute each year providing an opportunity for participants to explore a variety of concepts at a deeper level and in a variety of formats. HAPS focuses on concepts that are hard to understand, hard to learn, and hard to teach. All HAPS short courses include both subject-specific content as well as practical teaching and learning methodology, and each course gives participants the opportunity to publish in a peer-reviewed compendium of teaching resources. Participants who successfully complete HAPS-I courses earn graduate credit through the University of Washington. For more information, visit www.hapsweb.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=184, or find a link to the institute on the main page of the HAPS website: www.hapsweb.org.

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No Child Left Behind Update

Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education in the US Department of Education, Kerri Briggs commended states for the work they have done to implement high-quality standards and assessment systems, and she furnished a fact sheet with information on the department’s standards, assessment system status designations, and implications of those designations. As of now, the systems in 32 states have received “full approval” or “full approval with recommendations,” while the systems in 3 states have been designated “approval expected.” It is unlikely that all the remaining states will have fully approved standards and assessment systems soon. Moreover, some states that have approved systems may revise their standards or assessments in ways that result in systems that do not meet all No Child Left Behind requirements. Accordingly, the department will continue its usual practice of designating states to reflect their level of compliance. Visit www.ed.gov/admins/lead/account/saa.html#peerreview to learn more.

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Department of Education Releases New Report

On May 29, the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released its annual report (required by law) on the condition of education in the United States. “The Condition of Education 2008” includes 43 indicators in five major areas: participation in education, learner outcomes, student effort and educational progress, elementary and secondary education contexts, and postsecondary education contexts. (Later this summer, NCES will release a special analysis on community colleges.) Among the findings: in 2009-2010, public school enrollment is expected to top 50 million students for the first time in history; in 2005-2006, about one-third of African-American students and one-third of Hispanic students attended high-poverty schools, compared with 4% of white students; and, since 1970, women’s undergraduate enrollment has increased more than three times as fast as men’s. Visit nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/ for more information.

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Members of Congress Move to Improve STEM Education

On May 21st, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) introduced similar versions of a bill titled “Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education (eSTEM) Act of 2008.” The bill provides a mechanism for federal and state coordination and collaboration to improve existing STEM education initiatives. For more information about the bill and the impact it in STEM education, visit honda.house.gov/legislation/2008/stem.shtml.

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Fellowship Program Designed to Retain New Teachers

Thirty-three young men and women from across the nation were recently awarded fellowships from the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF), a national advocate for improving the quality of science and mathematics teaching. Renewable for up to five years and up to $150,000 in total, the KSTF Teaching Fellowship supports and sustains aspiring teachers as they embark on careers teaching high school science and mathematics. Approximately half of all secondary teachers leave the field within five years. Explicitly designed to meet the financial and professional needs of new science and mathematics teachers, the KSTF Teaching Fellowship helps reverse the trend by ensuring that the nation’s best remain in the profession to become leaders in the field. More information about the program can be found at www.kstf.org.

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Call for Applications from DANS

The Disciplinary Associations’ Network for Sustainability is looking for its next class of DANS Sustainability Education Fellows (www.aashe.org/dans). As a fellow, you will be an important part of the national trend toward sustainability in higher education. You will spend 4 to 5 hours each week working with your professional association and other related disciplinary and higher education associations, helping them collect and share quality sustainability information with their members. Fellows will serve as mentors to others doing sustainability work on college campuses. Their role is to nurture, connect, assist, and inspire the very important but often challenging work being done by disconnected individuals across the country. The vital role played by the fellows is crucial to continuing the momentum for education for a sustainable future. Application review will begin August 1st for the 2008-2009 academic year. You can apply to be a DANS Sustainability Education Fellow by sending an email to Steve Muzzy: smuzzy@secondnature.org.

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Upcoming Conferences, Institutes, and Events

August 6, 2008—High School Educators’ Ecological Literacy and Research Day, Milwaukee, WI. The Ecological Society of America will conduct an outreach event during its 93rd Annual Meeting to provide high school educators the opportunity to learn how to integrate ecological literacy and research into their teaching. For more information, visit http://esa.org/milwaukee/highschool_educators.php.

September 21, 2008—“Lab on the Lake” World Stem Cell Summit, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI. NABT will be offering three workshops at the “Lab on the Lake” public outreach fair being held in conjunction with the 2008 World Stem Cell Summit. The workshops are free and will use interactive activities to help teachers learn more about stem cells materials and resources for their classrooms. More information can be found by visiting the NABT website at www.nabt.org/sites/S1/index.php?p=17.

October 9-12, 2008— Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Conference, Salt Lake City, UT. This year’s SACNAS National Conference celebrates the organization’s 35th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, SACNAS will engage conference participants from all scientific fields in discourse on global change. For more information, visit www.sacnas.org/confnew/confclient/.

October 15-18, 2008—National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) Professional Development Conference, Memphis, TN. The conference draws upon experts in the field of education and teachers from across the nation to present and discuss current issues facing biology teachers, how-to workshops, scientific updates, and innovative teaching strategies. For more information and to register, visit www.nabt2008.org.

October 16-18, 2008—ACUBE: Association of College and University Biology Educators 52nd Annual Meeting, Hopkinsville, KY. The ACUBE annual meeting will be held at Hopkinsville Community College in Kentucky. The theme is “Assessment in the Biology Classroom: How do we evaluate student learning?” To learn more about the meeting, visit acube.org/index.html.

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