This is Not Your Grandfather’s Biology Education
Long Island University professor is a co-author of a major report that calls for historic changes in how biology is taught in college
Brian Harmon,Director of Public Relations
Long Island University
Brooklyn, N.Y. – The way students are taught biology in college is about to take a 180-degree turn. Multiple-choice tests, huge lecture halls and heavy memorization are expected to take a backseat to in-depth evaluation, smaller class sizes and innovative lessons that emphasize logic and critical thinking.
So say the authors of a groundbreaking report on undergraduate biology education that was just released by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action” takes a major step toward modernizing biology education at universities across the United States, incorporating the latest advances in medicine, alternative energy sources and a fresh understanding of the behavioral and social sciences.
“The study provides an alternative to the encyclopedic approach to learning biology,” said Anthony DePass, a biology professor at Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus and one of the lead authors of the report.
“We shouldn’t be relying on cramming in facts in an attempt to broaden knowledge,” added DePass, who is also the assistant vice president for research development at the University.
The report, funded by the National Science Foundation with support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, comes in response to an overall concern among undergraduate students that their biology classes need to be more challenging and involve real-world research. It recommends student-centered learning, which should include effective and timely feedback on their progress.
Three years in the making, the study began with a series of seven regional meetings that included some 200 leading biology faculty and administrators from across the country. A 2009 conference in Washington, D.C., followed, with 500 professors, administrators, students and representatives of scientific societies participating, and focus groups were conducted with more than 200 biology students.
A team of co-authors was then chosen to draft a final report that addressed several areas related to structure and implementation of the proposed “vision and change” in biology. The result was a publication filled with guidelines for innovative courses and materials to engage all students, not just biology majors, with important concepts that will prepare them to work and participate in an increasingly scientific and technological society.
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