“Science and Society”: A New Interdisciplinary Core Course Lawrence Blumer (Biology) with Valerie Haftel (Biology), Lance Shipman (Chemistry), Duane Jackson (Psychology), Charles Brown (Physics), Anne Baird (Sociology) and Curtis Clark (Mathematics). Implementation Progress
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“Science and Society”: A New Interdisciplinary Core Course
Lawrence Blumer (Biology) with Valerie Haftel (Biology), Lance Shipman (Chemistry), Duane Jackson (Psychology),
Charles Brown (Physics), Anne Baird (Sociology) and Curtis Clark (Mathematics)
Each member of the faculty team has been developing two weeks of materials for the course (for a total of 12 weeks). These materials include detailed lecture outlines, two laboratory protocols, two PLTL workshops, and examination questions that address the detailed outcome indicators previously established for the course.
Laboratory materials for the Energy, Climate and Pollution module were purchased, assembled, and tested this past summer by an undergraduate assistant. These materials include desktop solar power-hydrogen fuel cell systems, light bulb efficiency testing systems, and a functioning grid-tied solar panel. Laboratory protocols have been written and revised for this subject area.
Development of all instructional materials will continue beyond the period of the current grant and will include the testing of laboratory protocols and the assembly of laboratory materials.
After the Science and Society course has been taught for two semesters in 2007-2008, we will have collected data on student outcomes to compare to our existing non-majors courses. The efficacy of PLTL in this new context will be reported by preparing a manuscript for publication. Our new laboratory protocols and case studies will be published and presented at appropriate scientific-pedagogy meetings.
Core Curriculum Revision
Three and one-half years ago, a core curriculum taskforce, consisting of faculty representatives from every academic department, began addressing the question: What should a Morehouse Man know and be able to do? We addressed this question with a clean slate approach and developed a comprehensive list of goals, student learning outcomes, and indicators of each learning outcome.
A design team, consisting of most of our current group, was formed in the addressed the following student learning objective:
“Understand the fundamental principles and processes of the natural world”
Four outcome indicators were specified by the core curriculum task force for this learning outcome:
1.Understand the method and ethics of scientific research - have knowledge of history and philosophy of science
2.Understand biological evolution
3.Understand fundamental physical laws and principles
4.Understand the inter-relatedness of science, technology, mathematics and systems thinking
Core Science Curriculum
We are developing a one-semester course, “Science and Society”, which will be required of all Morehouse students, both science majors and non-majors. This course will consist of both lecture and laboratory components and will be taken by Sophomore-level students. The entire course will be 4 semester hours. This course will be taught for the first time in the 2007-2008 academic year to 150 students participating in the new pilot core curriculum. The following four 3-week modules for the “Science and Society” course were developed during this past year:
Module SubjectOutcome Indicator Area
Origin of the Universe Physical laws, Methods
Social Biology, Behavior and Evolution Evolution, Methods and Ethics
Science and Terrorism Physical laws, Interrelatedness
Energy, Climate and Pollution Physical laws, Interrelatedness
The Science and Society course will be taught in a broadly interdisciplinary manner. Two faculty from different departments will team teach the course in each semester. Modules were chosen to permit integration between science disciplines and to facilitate a case-based approach to learning and teaching. The laboratory component of the course will consist of one 4-hour meeting each week which will emphasize the experimental process, the context of scientific discovery, and the consequences of scientific advances. Embedded in the laboratory part of the course will be a weekly peer-led team-learning session (PLTL). PLTL has been widely adopted in undergraduate chemistry courses as a well documented means of improving problem solving and creative thinking skills while improving academic performance. PLTL has not been implemented in any non-majors science courses to our knowledge. The laboratory studies that we are preparing use a guided inquiry approach in which students will design their own experiments to address questions posed to them.