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AIBS Eye on Education

From the pages of BioScience magazine, the online version of our quarterly column that looks at success stories in education.

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Columns

March 2014: How Kindling Catches Flame: U-MD Transforming Undergrad Biology Education

by Susan Musante

At lunchtime, during a busy fall-semester day at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), a conference room is soon filled with research and teaching faculty, laboratory instructors, postdoctoral scholars, graduate students, and education specialists. The diverse group gathers in...

January 2014: The USDA Invests in Biology Education

by Susan Musante

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) might not come to mind when biology educators are searching for funding to support innovative projects, but the agency turns out to be a welcome partner in the field. In early 2013, the USDA...

October 2013: Networking to Boost the Skills of Graduate Teaching Assistants

by Susan Musante

When Elisabeth Schussler arrived at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, (UT) she used her knowledge of evidence-based teaching practices to revise the undergraduate biology laboratory curriculum. Unfortunately, she had little control over how the curriculum was delivered. Many graduate teaching...

July 2013: AIBS Study on Leading Change in Undergraduate Education

by Susan Musante

Advancing biology education has always been integral to the mission of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). As part of AIBS's long-range planning process, the Education Committee was charged with identifying how this key part of the mission could...

April 2013: PULSE: Implementing Change within and among Life Science Departments

by Susan Musante

Many efforts are under way to support individual faculty-member development and course revision to achieve the outcomes described in the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Vision and Change: A Call to Action (2011) report. For their contribution, staff...

January 2013: Discovering the Biology Education Research Community

by Susan Musante

When Sarah Eddy began work on her doctoral thesis, she assumed that her main contribution would relate to her field of study—behavioral ecology and the sexual selection of salamanders—but one of her more significant discoveries had nothing to do with...

October 2012: Collaborations Grow through the Introductory Biology Project

by Susan Musante

When Elena Bray-Speth, assistant professor of biology at Saint Louis University, presented her case study on the evolution of fur color in mice, little did she know that someone in the audience had developed a case on the very same...

July 2012: Community Colleges Giving Students a Framework for STEM Careers

by Susan Musante

Over the coming decade, our country will need one million more science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals than was originally projected. That is the conclusion of a February 2012 report, Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates...

April 2012: Making Biology Relevant to Undergraduates

by Susan Musante

Terry R. McGuire always assumed that his students understood the relevance of their biology coursework to their lives outside the classroom, and he expected their grades to fall along a normal bell curve. But when he returned from a professional...

January 2012: Motivating Tomorrow's Biologists

by Susan Musante

"How do you make the biology we teach as exciting as the biology that we do?" was the challenging question posed by V. Celeste Carter to participants at the National Academy of Sciences convocation, "Thinking Evolutionarily: Evolution Education across the...

October 2011: Teaching Biology for a Sustainable Future

by Susan Musante

Students at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, can now take an innovative biology course in which an integrated, interdisciplinary, problem-based approach is used—one that the scientific community itself is promoting. The first course in a four-semester sequence, Biology 123—The...

July 2011: Upgrading Undergraduate Biology Education

by Susan Musante

On many campuses throughout the country, undergraduate biology education is in serious need of an upgrade. During the past few decades, the body of biological knowledge has grown exponentially, and as a research endeavor, the practice of biology has evolved....

April 2011: Expanding the Understanding of Evolution

by Susan Musante

Originally designed for K-12 teachers, the Understanding Evolution (UE) Web site is a onestop shop for all of a teacher's evolution education needs.

January 2011: Forging a 21st Century Model for Undergraduate Research

by Susan Musante

Not all biology students get to experience scientific research firsthand, but the National Genomics Research Initiative (NGRI) is working to change that, says its director, Tuajuanda Jordan. "The goal is to support educators and improve the number and quality of...

October 2010: Mobile Learning Anytime, Anywhere

by Oksana Hlodan

Pssst, do you want a free iPod? Sure, but what's the catch? You must use it to learn! Some educational institutions are taking the leap to mobile learning (m-learning) by giving out free iPods. For example, Abilene Christian University gave...

July 2010: Update: Have BIO2010 Goals Been Achieved?

by Beth Baker

Leaders in biology education are celebrating the progress made since the publication of BIO2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists. The landmark report, published in 2003 by the National Research Council (NRC), called on institutions of higher education to...

April 2010: Learning How to Ask Research Questions

by Susan Musante

Collaborative research is a demanding endeavor, and for a group of undergraduate students tasked with identifying their own interdisciplinary research problem, the challenges are even greater. "It was scary—we didn't know what to ask the professors, and we couldn't decide...

January 2010: DNA Barcoding Investigations Bring Biology to Life

by Susan Musante

When Sophia Cuprillnilson walked into her undergraduate genetics class in the fall of 2008, little did she realize that her perception of biology would be transformed forever. "I thought I was going to be learning about Mendel and peas," she...

October 2009: Fill in the Blank: "Without this technology, my students simply cannot _________."

by Oksana Hlodan

My first thought about the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) was that I needed a personal trainer to schedule the sessions best suited to my needs. A record 18,500-plus educators and exhibitors attended the 30th annual NECC event in Washington,...

July 2009: You're Teaching, But How Do You Know They're Learning?

by Susan Musante

Although most instructors would like to believe that their students fully understand every biological concept explained in class, this is often not the case. Gary Wisehart, chair and professor of biology at San Diego City College, knows this from firsthand...

April 2009: The Professional Science Master's: The MBA for Science

by Susan Musante

When Jay Duffner decided to go to graduate school to advance his career in biotechnology, he chose Northeastern University's Professional Science Master's (PSM) program rather than a traditional master's or PhD track. He recognized the benefits of earning an advanced...

January 2009: A Dynamic Alternative to the Scientific Method

by Susan Musante

Open a biology textbook to the table of contents and you will undoubtedly see a chapter devoted to the scientific process. Typically, this is presented as a four- or five-step "scientific method," a recipe that all must follow if scientific...

October 2008: Digital Games: Learning through Play

by Oksana Hlodan

The Horizon Report, the go-to guide for emerging educational technology published by the New Media Consortium (www.nmc.org/horizon), projected in 2005 that educational gaming would become a significant learning tool within two or three years. The 2008 report identifies game play...

May 2008: Creating a New Breed of Biology Education Researchers

by Brian Stagg

Introductory undergraduate biology courses often fail to truly engage students in the subject matter, a problem that sometimes causes students to switch out of biology majors. The tra­ditional, lecture-only curriculum has already been shunned in middle-school and high-school science classrooms,...

March 2008: A Second CHANCE

by Samantha J. Katz

How do you change the way science is taught? You might start by giving teachers a second chance—or CHANCE, in this instance. Jacqueline McLaughlin, assistant professor of biology at Penn State University, is doing just that through an innovative professional...

January 2008: WEBS: Practicing Faculty Mentorship

by Samantha J. Katz

More than half of the doctoral degrees in biology are earned by women. The proportion of women in postdoctoral, tenure-track, and tenured faculty positions, however, is not as large. The question is, why? WEBS—Women Evolving the Biological Sciences—is an attempt...

October 2007: Teach for America, Hope for the Future

by Samantha J. Katz

Joslyn Woodard is doing something she never thought she would—teaching environmental science and biology to high school students in Chicago’s south side. As an undergraduate student in molecular biology and neuroscience at Yale, Woodard was sure she wanted to go...

July 2007: Mentoring Women in the Biological Sciences: Is Informatics Leading the Pack?

by Samantha Katz

Across the landscape of informatics, particularly biological and ecological informatics, are quite a few women in leadership positions at important organizations, such as the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, and the National Ecological...

April 2007: Creating a “Green” Campus

by Abraham Parker

The world is getting warmer, but that’s just the beginning. Glaciers will melt, sea levels will rise and flood coastal cities, hurricanes will increase in intensity, entire ecosystems will be lost—and humans carry most of blame. If we act now,...

January 2007: Researching Teaching Scientifically

by Susan Musante

While many educators recognize the importance of "scientific teaching," they are less certain about how to engage in this process. One approach taken by the developers of Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology (TIEE; http://tiee.ecoed.net), a peer-reviewed, Web-based collection of...

October 2006: Cultivating Plant Scientists

by Susan Musante

At the 2003 annual meeting of the Botanical Society of America (BSA), keynote speaker Bruce Alberts offered members an educational challenge: Bridge the connections between scientists and science classrooms, and develop inquiry-based programs that encourage hands-on student participation in science....

July 2006: Summer Research Experiences

by Susan Musante

Though others might be concerned about adding to their already long list of responsibilities, David Carr says that spending a summer mentoring a local high school teacher through a research project was completely worthwhile. Carr, acting director of the University...

April 2006: Strategies for Teaching Modeling to Students

by Susan Musante

Models are powerful tools for understanding systems and solving ecological problems, but they overwhelm many students when they are first presented in life science courses. Models are often perceived as irrelevant, mathematically complex, or too abstract. Yet students need to...

January 2006: Building a Diverse Biological Community

by Abraham Parker

Is America's scientific community an accurate representation of America? Most scientists say no. There are several underrepresented minority groups in the sciences—notably African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Alaska Natives. This lack of diversity has been a particular...

October 2005: Learning the Nature of Science

by Susan Musante

Media headlines question scientists' concerns about global warming. Magazines advertise weight loss products — results guaranteed. Web-based articles and best-selling books explain the evolution of species as "intelligent design" creationism. Students are bombarded daily with claims backed by "scientific research," but where do they obtain the skills and knowledge necessary to distinguish science from pseudoscience?

July 2005: Making a Difference: Mentoring High School Biology Students

by Abraham Parker

When Claudia Bonilla enrolled in biology class, she knew very little about plant ecology, and had no idea that it would soon become a significant part of her life. Claudia’s class was part of the EnvironMentors Project, based in Washington,...

April 2005: Creating a Community of Educators to Improve Undergraduate Biology Student Learning

by Susan Musante

Biology faculty at research institutions belong to a community of scientists. They communicate regularly with others in their discipline, sharing research problems, methods, and conclusions. But what happens when they have a teaching problem? Where do they turn when a...

January 2005: Teaching Students with Disabilities: Applying and Learning Scientific Habits of Mind

by Susan Musante

Jay Hatch, associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Minnesota (UMN) and associate curator of fishes at the Bell Museum of Natural History in Minneapolis, has been a scientist for over 25 years. During his career, he has...

October 2004: A New Approach to Combat Invasive Species: Project-Based Training for Graduate Students

by Susan Musante

Biologists cannot solve the problem of invasive species by themselves. Doing that requires a coordinated effort between scientists, policymakers, and others in the community. Unfortunately, the skills necessary to address complex environmental problems are not traditionally taught to scientists as...

July 2004: Using Bioinformatics in the Undergraduate Classroom

by Susan Musante

During a BioQUEST workshop five years ago, Garry Duncan discovered the potential of bioinformatics. Using innovative software to manipulate biological data and solve problems, he realized, held enormous promise for him not just as a researcher but also as an...

April 2004: Inquiry in K-12 Classrooms: Graduate Students and Teachers Team Up

by Cathy Lundmark

This is the fifth year of the National Science Foundation's innovative partnership program, Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education, more commonly known as the GK-12 program. When Rita Colwell launched the program in 1999, soon after becoming director of NSF,...

January 2004: Undergraduate Mentoring Program Targets Hard-to-Find Students

by Cathy Lundmark

In its program announcement for Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology (UMEB), the National Science Foundation clearly spells out whom the program is meant to attract: "members of those racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in science, mathematics, and engineering: Native Americans...

October 2003: Plant Blindness

by William Allen

Plants fuel life on Earth by tapping the sun's energy. But if plants are the main mediators between the physical and biological worlds, why do most people tend to appreciate animals so much more than plants? That question is at...

July 2003: BEN: The Biology Branch of the National Science Digital Library

by Cathy Lundmark

The Biosciences Education Network is "a one-stop shopping area for resources from all digital libraries of BEN partners," explains Yolanda George, deputy director of Education and Human Resources at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She...

April 2003: BioBlitz: Getting into Backyard Biodiversity

by Cathy Lundmark

How often does the public get to see scientists having fun doing science? And what if everyone who came to watch, young or old, went away with a much better understanding of biodiversity? It happens every year in many...

January 2003: Preparing Biologists for the 21st Century

by M. Patricia Morse

Biology research is on a roll: In the last 50 years, we have discovered the basic links among all living things through our growing understanding of the structure of DNA, and scientists have gone on to map the genomes of...

October 2002: Improving the Science Curriculum with Bioethics

by Cathy Lundmark

Biology teachers are in a real bind. With the current emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing, they have less and less time to teach more and more information, leaving very little opportunity to ensure that students are learning what's important. "Look...

July 2002: The FIRST Project for Reforming Undergraduate Science Teaching

by Cathy Lundmark

The impetus behind Faculty Institutes for Reforming Science Teaching (FIRST) is elegantly simple. "We expect team members to bring the same kind of reflective judgment to their teaching as they do to their disciplinary research," says Diane Ebert-May, a plant...

April 2002: Lifelong Learning

by Cathy Lundmark

Learning does not stop when the school bell rings or when a degree is complete. We continue to learn, through work and experience, by necessity and for personal interest, as long as we live. The United States is rapidly becoming...

January 2002: Teaching Science through Research

by Cathy Lundmark

Editor's note: This is the first installment of a new series, appearing quarterly, that will look at success stories in education. Alan Berkowitz recognized he had an opportunity to develop an innovative education program when he became the Institute for...

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