On May 15th and 16th AIBS and AAAS co-hosted an NSF Conversation in Undergraduate Biology and a Biology Education Summit at AAAS in Washington, DC. These meetings focused on the role of scientific societies in promoting and supporting undergraduate biology and examined how professional societies can stimulate, support, and disseminate information about undergraduate biological sciences education reform. The NSF Conversation took place on May 15th and the AIBS/AAAS Biology Education Summit began in the afternoon of that same day and continued until 16th.

NSF Conversation in Undergraduate Biology

The NSF Conversation was lead by NSF staff and participants discussed and shared thoughts on the following questions:

  • What should be the main goals of the 21st century undergraduate life science curriculum, and how do these goals translate into desired outcomes?

  • How do we design a curriculum to achieve these goals, and what is the best way to deliver that curriculum?

  • How do we best prepare our faculty and structure our departments and institutions to achieve these goals?

The AIBS Education Summit was lead by AIBS members, staff, and other volunteers. The following information provides a summary of what took place during the Summit, the feedback that we received, and the next steps.

2008 AIBS Education Summit



During the Biology Education Summit, session leaders outlined some of the challenges undergraduate biology educators currently face and ways that they and the scientific organizations they represent are addressing these challenges. The participants were encouraged to talk about other problems and challenges, to share strategies that work for them, and to help each other identify key people to be involved in assisting with specific initiatives. All biological societies and biology education organizations are encouraged to become part of this ongoing conversation.

There were seventy-seven participants representing forty-four different societies and biology education organizations present, despite the fact that we only had funding to support travel for 25 people. The participants demonstrated a high level of personal commitment not only by taking the time to attend the Summit but also by making a commitment to share what they learned and taking the next steps necessary to engage even more people in the topic when they returned home. In this way we will be able to spread the word and collectively begin address the issues and challenges facing the undergraduate biology education community.


Presentations from the 2008 Education Summit:

Introduction to the Education Summit (PDF, 107 KB) - Gordon Uno, Department Chair and David Ross Boyd Professor, University of Oklahoma and Chair of the AIBS Education Committee

Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Education in a Changing World. Rita Colwell, Distinguished Professor, Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, and AIBS President

Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science & Year of Science 2009. (PDF, 3.22 MB) Sheri Potter, COPUS Network Project Manager, AIBS, and Judy Scotchmoor, COPUS Steering Committee, Assistant Director for Education and Public Programs at the University of California Museum of Paleontology

Training the Next Generation of Biologists and Biologically Literate Citizens. (PDF, 9 MB) Carol Brewer, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Montana

Bridging the Pathway from Instruction to Research. (PDF, 671 KB) Diane Ebert-May, Professor of Plant Biology, Michigan State University

Publishing Biology Education Scholarship: Culture and Practice. (PDF, 764 KB) Charlene D'Avanzo, Director of the Center for Teaching and Professor of Ecology, School of Natural Sciences, Hampshire College

The Education Publishing Transformation. (PDF, 48 KB) Michael Lange, Vice President, McGraw-Hill Companies

The Meyerhoff Program at UMBC. Earnestine Baker, Meyerhoff Program, University of Maryland - Baltimore County

SEEDS: Diverse People for a Diverse Science. (PDF, 640 KB) Teresa Mourad, Director of Education and Diversity Programs, Ecological Society of America SEEDS Program

Teaching Evolution: Controversies and Issues. (PDF, 5.43 MB) Jay Labov, Senior Advisor for Education and Communication, National Academy of Sciences

Evolution Across the Curriculum: (PDF, 804 KB) Thinking Evolutionarily. Gordon Uno , Department Chair and David Ross Boyd Professor, University of Oklahoma

Why National Standards and Accreditation are Needed for Baccalaureate Degree Programs in Biology. (PDF, 904 KB) Christopher D'Elia, Professor and Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of South Florida, and John M. Moore, Department Chairman and Professor of Biology, Taylor University and NABT president-elect

Best Practices in Undergraduate Biology Education: Promoting Disciplinary Problem Solving with Dynamic E-Science Resources. (PDF, 4.71 MB) Sam Donovan, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, University of Pittsburgh and Associate Director of BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium, and Claire Hemingway, Education Director, Botanical Society of America


Special Report:

A special report on the 2008 Biology Education Summit was published in the September 2008 issue of BioScience. The full text of the article is available for free at:
http://www.bioone.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1641%2FB580804 and a PDF version (5.52M) is available at:



From the Summit evaluations we learned:

  • Feelings were mixed about Basecamp, the online discussion/collaboration/project management forum. We have left this site up if anyone would like to use it and are very interested in learning your suggestions for similar products that you have found to be more useful and user friendly.

  • There are a wide range of professional development needs within the community. Topics included: collaboration facilitation, technology and e-resources, best practice development and implementation, assessment resources, outreach strategies, incentives for faculty, increase diversity, and student support.

  • Many programs and resources shared at the Summit were new to participants.

  • Some of the commonly listed next steps for societies include: new collaborations, formation of a new education committee, coordinating and expanding existing education committees, and discussions about education staff.

  • Some of the commonly listed next steps for individuals include: reviewing and/or using the materials/information learned, making presentations or writing reports to colleagues, and connecting and collaborating with new people met.

  • We learned a good deal from your responses to the final question: what would you do differently? In general, you suggested: more time to interact, use of small group discussions and break-outs, use of active learning strategies in the large group setting, and a hotel closer to the meeting location.

The general feedback was that all were energized by their participation - this despite the fact that we had a very long Thursday! Most everyone appreciated the opportunity to interact with like-minded people and learn of new projects and opportunities.


Next Steps:

As a direct result of the Summit, Gordon Uno, Chair of the AIBS Education Committee, Department of Botany and Microbiology, University of Oklahoma, will submit at proposal to the National Science Foundation's Research Collaboration Network - Undergraduate Biology Education track. The proposal outlines a strategy to: 1) generate a shared vision of biology education of the future, 2) outline a model of introductory biology experiences focusing on how best to prepare biology students, and 3) build a network to connect individuals, projects, and societies actively engaged in the reform of undergraduate biology education to increase capacity in the reform movement. These goals will be reached through a series of meetings organized by the AIBS.

It has been great to hear from a few of the Summit already to learn how each is progressing on his/her own "next steps" from the Summit! Please contact Susan Musante () if your organization is working on a particular initiative which directly ties to the goals of the Education Summit. AIBS staff is interested in supporting collaborations and initiatives that help us all improve undergraduate biology education.


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