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Scientific Teaching. Clarissa Dirks The Evergreen State College. Brad Hyman University of California, Riverside. Goals for Summer Institute. To enhance the quality of science education To create a more diverse scientific community Initiate a national revolution in science education.

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Scientific Teaching

Clarissa Dirks

The Evergreen State College

Brad Hyman

University of California, Riverside

goals for summer institute
Goals for Summer Institute
  • To enhance the quality of science education
  • To create a more diverse scientific community
  • Initiate a national revolution in science education

Learning Outcomes for Scientific Teaching Session Participants will be able to…..

  • Explain the need for change in science education
  • Define “scientific teaching”
  • List and describe the three themes of scientific teaching
  • Engage in the process of science

Calls for Change in Science Education

  • AAAS “Science for All Americans”
  • NRC “How People Learn”
  • NAS “From Analysis to Action”
  • NRC “Bio2010”
  • President Obama “Win the Future”
  • Need for increase of “science literacy”
  • NSF and AAAS “Vision and Change”
reasons for change
Reasons For Change

“Talk to your neighbor”

reasons for change1
Reasons For Change

Inability of science students to engage in conceptual and analytical thinking

Poor retention (10-20% lecture content)

Exit of students from college science (biology majors ~60%)

Long term lack of persistence of women in academic science

Greater loss of certain ethnic minorities (~80% for African American students)


Minority Retention Rates in Science Are A Sore Spot for Most Universities

Underrepresented students don’t stay the course.

Science 324: 1386-1387 2009


What is Scientific Teaching?

“Talk to your neighbor”


What is Scientific Teaching?

Handelsman et al., 2004 Science 304:521-522.

The classroom reflects the process of science – evidence based

The classroom captures the rigor, iterative nature, and spirit of discovery of science at its best

Students learn the process and skills of science

The classroom includes all students

summer institute themes
Summer Institute Themes


Active learning


summer institute themes1
Summer Institute Themes
  • Assessment
      • Not assume that our teaching methods work
      • Empower students to assess their own learning- metacognition
      • Enable instructor to monitor student progress
summer institute themes2
Summer Institute Themes
  • Assessment
  • Active learning
      • Students must be engaged in the process of learning
      • Transition from a passive to an active learner

Active Learning

  • You are now playing the role of an undergraduate in introductory biology
  • Please read the information on the next slide and discuss this in groups of three at your table

Active Learning

(NOTE: If you know the answer to this, please don’t reveal it to your group!)

You an undergraduates at a party. One of your male friends goes into the bathroom and comes back to you looking rather distraught. He tells you that he found a box of pregnancy tests in the bathroom and as a joke took the test. He was shocked when he unexpectedly saw a positive result.

Discuss the results with your group of 3 and propose a hypothesis and design an experiment.


Active Learning

Share your hypothesis and experimental design with the other group(s) at your table.


Active Learning

New information:

You think that the test is faulty and advise your friend to go into the bathroom and take another test. You are amazed to find out that the second test is also positive. You even confirmed that he was reading the results correctly!

Does this new information change your hypothesis?

What questions do you have for us?


Active Learning

Let’s Brainstorm!


Active Learning

We just modeled:

  • The process of science
  • The importance of collaborative of work
  • Ask, don’t tell
  • Everyone was engaged!
summer institute themes3
Summer Institute Themes
  • Assessment
  • Active learning
  • Diversity
      • Science depends on contributions from diverse people for creativity – so should our classrooms


in the classroom

Cognitive Style

Learning Style

Gender, Race, and Style

Prejudice and Bias in the Classroom


Your Work at The Summer Institute


A teachable unit versus a teachable “tidbit”

Teachable Unit:

a framework of a teaching plan designed to help students master a particular concept

Teachable Tidbit:

one or two teaching activities from this unit that are developed in detail (you will present it on Thursday)


Materials Are Developed With Feedback

Terminology: “Do-Si-Do”/group share


An event in which one group presents their preliminary work to another team for feedback.

Each group should explain their learning outcomes, then “teach” their tidbit to the other group. The groups offer one another constructive feedback for improvements.


When a faculty member in your department is given a new course to teach, what steps do they take to prepare?

Discuss the typical approach faculty take.


Standard course planning

Choose textbook

Create syllabus

Write/revise lectures, notes

Prepare PowerPoint presentations

Write exams




Summative Assessment


Formative Assessment


General Course Goals

An Alternative Approach Is Backward Design

Student Centered

Adapted from Wiggins and McTighe (1998)


General Course Goals



Everything is inclusive of Diversity!

Summative Assessment





Formative Assessment


Adapted from Wiggins and McTighe (1998)


Final Presentations on Thursday

Each group will have 25 minutes to present an outline of their unit and “teach” their tidbit.

Presentations will be followed by 10 minutes of comments and suggestions.


The process is the important part of the Summer Institute and developing the materials provides practice.


Throughout the Summer Institute

We Will Use A Variety of Techniques and Tools



A radio frequency classroom response system that helps us better connect!


iClickers, or personal response systems, will:

  • help students to be engaged during lectures.
  • allow students to assess your knowledge during lectures.
  • allow faculty to assess students knowledge during lectures.
  • keep student responses confidential.
  • enhance peer instruction.

Let’s Practice Using Them!

  • I have used iClickers or another personal response system in my teaching.
  • Yes
  • No

We Will Use iClickers To Gain Important

Information From You Throughout the Summer Institute

For Example . . .

  • I am familiar with or have used a Wiki prior to the Summer Institute:
  • Yes
  • No

Scientific Teaching!

This Summer Institute will help you be in a position to do . . .

  • In the literal sense you will be able to:
  • introduce innovative teaching approaches
  • measure the effects on student learning
  • use the data to improve the course next time around