Next Generation Science Standards for Today's Students and Tomorrow's Workforce: Through a collaborative, state-led process managed by Achieve, new K-12 science standards are being developed that will be rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education. The NGSS will be based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education developed by the National Research Council.The standards themselves and instructions on how to provide feedback are available at http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards. Comments are welcome until 29 January 2013.
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But read that quote again and ask yourself if the survey addressed the relevant question. The survey revealed what students want, not what is most educationally effective.2 It is plausible to think that what students like the most is also what most helps them to learn, but plausibility isn't the same thing as evidence. It's plausible that learning styles differ and that teaching methods should adapt to reflect those differences, but Cedar Riener and Daniel Willingham argue pretty effectively that "There is no credible evidence that learning styles exist."
Students differ in their abilities, interests, and background knowledge, but not in their learning styles. Students may have preferences about how to learn, but no evidence suggests that catering to those preferences will lead to better learning. As college educators, we should apply this to the classroom by continuing to present information in the most appropriate manner for our content and for the level of prior knowledge, ability, and interests of that particular set of students. (source)So what I'd like to see is an analysis that compares how much students learn from old-school lectures versus various types of technology-enhanced lectures versus various types of online enhancements to lectures versus fully online courses. Within each of those categories there are a myriad of ways in which a course could be organized, and some are likely to be more effective than others. We ought to know which ones they are.
It also seems plausible3 that even if students don't differ in learning styles, teachers may differ among themselves in which styles are most effective for them. Within the context of a traditional lecture format, for example, I know that I'm lousy at telling jokes and being entertatining. I am pretty good4 at explaining concepts clearly. So that's what I focus on. What works for me is being as clear and as organized as I can possibly be, while some of my colleagues are far more creative and find ways to make lectures fun as well as informative. We ought to know not only which methods of teaching are most effective, but also to know which methods are most effective for which people and also for which content.
Then we need to ensure that we give graduate students who hope to move into faculty positions an opportunity to acquire this knowledge before we put them in front of a classroom. After a quarter of century of practice, I think I've become a reaaonably effective college teacher, but I know I didn't serve students well in my first few years on the job, especially students in introductory courses. I've always been sorry for that. Those students deserved to have a professor who knew more than biology. They deserved to have a professor who knew how to teach.
English: Wall Street sign on Wall Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
But at least 2000 of them subscribe to a newsletter written by Arch Crawford, a financial astrologer.
Crawford warns his 2,000 subscribers particularly against the dangers of Mercury in retrograde, a time when the planet appears to be going in reverse across the sky. The phenomenon, which happens three times or more a year, indicates a month when communications will be screwed up. He warns his subscribers never to start anything new during that time. He points to the fact that Knight Capital launched a new software program in August, when Mercury was in retrograde, and the brokerage firm nearly went out of business. He also notes that most major market glitches have happened while Mercury was in retrograde. (source)According to Karen Starich, another financial astrologer,
Neptune represents money. But when Saturn shows up in a chart, it indicates restriction. So for the Fed, that means the "fiscal cliff is here, and there's no place to go except to print more money or unravel these financial institutions," Starich says.Listen, I don't expect the financial wizards on Wall Street to know about Higgs boson or small nuclear RNA, but I would expect them to know the difference between knowledge and fantasy. There's a good chance we'll fall off the fiscal cliff and have to deal with sequestration, but it doesn't have anything to do with Saturn showing up in a chart.
It's frightening to think that a lot of guys who are responsible for managing a lot of money listen to this...2 They must be pretty smart guys, at least pretty good with numbers. If they weren't they wouldn't keep their jobs. How is it that such pretty smart guys can know so little about the world? Where did their education go wrong?
Measure of Human Scale (Photo credit: Richard Sennett)
For this generation of entering college students, born in 1994, Kurt Cobain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Richard Nixon and John Wayne Gacy have always been dead.Since I'm teaching one of my graduate courses this fall and since I'm Interim Dean of the Graduate School, the list for the Class of 2010 is more relevant, since that shows the cultural context for a typical new graduate student who did something else for a year or two before entering graduate school.1
- Michael Jackson's family, not the Kennedys, constitutes "American Royalty."
- Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker's long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.
- Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.
- Star Wars has always been just a film, not a defense strategy.
- NBC has never shown A Wonderful Life more than twice during the holidays.
- They have no recollection of when Arianna Huffington was a conservative.
- The Twilight Zone involves vampires, not Rod Serling.
- The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
- There has always been only one Germany.
- They have never heard anyone actually "ring it up" on a cash register.
- A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents'.
National Initiative Launched to Change the Way Biology Departments Approach Undergraduate Education
PULSE program seeks faculty to help lead systemic change
A new national initiative promises to improve college biology education by engaging faculty members in an effort to change how post-secondary life sciences departments approach education. PULSE, which stands for Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education, is a collaborative effort funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Program organizers also announced today that they are accepting applications from faculty members interested in becoming Vision and Change Leadership Fellows - individuals who will lead a national effort to stimulate systemic change in how post-secondary educational institutions approach biology education. The intent of the program is to develop a strategy to implement the findings from a 2011 report.
College students and faculty members have long argued that the approach to undergraduate education in the life sciences should be modernized to reflect what we now understand about how students learn. Twenty-first century science demands that students develop scientific and technical skills, and also the capacity to work beyond traditional academic boundaries. Undergraduate students, regardless of their major, deserve and need a life sciences education that helps then understand biology and how scientific research is conducted. Informed decision-making, whether managing one's health, deciding what food to eat, or understanding how individual actions influence the environment, requires an appreciation of the nature of science.
In 2006, the NSF initiated a multi-year conversation with the scientific community, with assistance from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. That dialogue, which was co-funded with the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, generated the 2011 report, Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action .
The scientific community actively informed the recommendations in the Vision and Change report. Among these were a recognition that a 21 st century education requires changes to how biology is taught, how academic departments support faculty, and how curricular decisions are made.
"There is now broad consensus about the change that is needed," said HHMI's Cynthia Bauerle. The way biology is taught needs to change in order to "spark student interest in science and prepare them for the challenging scientific problems we face in the 21 st century."
Prior efforts to reform post-secondary life sciences education have focused on helping individual faculty members improve their teaching methods. These initiatives have created points of excellence at institutions across the country, but have failed to produce the systemic change that is needed to fundamentally improve college-level biology education.
To foster this widespread change, the NSF, NIH, and HHMI have partnered to launch the PULSE program. Supporting the effort are Knowinnovation and the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
The PULSE initiative will facilitate the systemic change that was identified as a national priority in the Vision and Change report.
Clifton A. Poodry of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the division of NIH providing funding to PULSE, notes that NIH has a long-standing commitment to training the next generation. "We look forward to furthering this goal through our partnership with NSF and HHMI to implement recommendations of the Vision and Change report for improving undergraduate biology education," said Poodry.
This year PULSE will select 40 Vision and Change Leadership Fellows. The selection process will identify individuals experienced in catalyzing undergraduate biology education reform at institutional, departmental, or divisional levels in the nation's colleges and universities. The Fellows will represent research universities, regional or comprehensive universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges. The Fellows will be engaged in a yearlong effort to develop an implementation strategy for the Vision and Change report.
"What we are trying to achieve is systemic change, transformation of undergraduate biology education in this country," stated Judith Verbeke of the NSF. This is why the PULSE effort is encouraging current or former biology department heads to apply. "The focus is intentional," said Verbeke, "because it's at the level of the department that so many decisions are made. We are looking to the department as the most appropriate unit to make real change."
Ideal applicants will be aware of the history and discourse of reforming undergraduate life sciences education; have undergraduate teaching experience as well as experience mentoring, motivating and evaluating other faculty; and will have experience as current or former chairs or department heads. Applicants should be active in cultivating the mix of scholarship in teaching and life sciences research appropriate to their type of institution. Successful candidates will have a record of working collaboratively and creatively with individuals from different backgrounds.
It is through diversity of perspective that we achieve change, Bauerle said, "We seek not only those who are already members of the choir, but also committed life scientists and educators who question how best to proceed."
Applications for the Vision and Change Leadership Fellows program will be accepted through July 9, 2012. Information about the PULSE program, including application guidelines, is available at www.pulsecommunity.org . The Vision and Change report is online at http://visionandchange.org/finalreport .
Julie Palakovich Carr
Senior Public Policy Associate
American Institute of Biological Sciences
1444 I Street, NW Suite 200
Washington, DC 20005
Here's a bit of information about the conference from the conference web site:
Join us in the beautiful setting of the American Southwest for a three-day symposium on the joys and challenges of communicating our understanding of the universe and science in general--whether in the classroom, in a museum or nature center, to general and specific audiences, through books and magazines, on the web, via festivals and fairs, on radio and television, or through the social media. Preceding the symposium will be a two-day workshop: In the Footsteps of Galileo, a national workshop of educators in grades 3-12 and in informal settings.To receive updates about the conference as information becomes available, you can fill out the form at http://www.astrosociety.org/events/2012mtg/2012signup.html.
Image via Wikipedia
LAST FALL, President Obama threw what was billed as the first White House Science Fair, a photo op in the gilt-mirrored State Dining Room. He tested a steering wheel designed by middle schoolers to detect distracted driving and peeked inside a robot that plays soccer. It was meant as an inspirational moment: children, science is fun; work harder. ("Why science majors change their majors. It's just so darn hard," by Chrisopher Drew, The New York Times, 4 November 2011).As Christopher Drew points out later in the article, about 40 percent of students planning to major in science or engineering switch majors before finishing their degree. Almost 60 percent switch if those who enter college hoping for a career in medicine are included. Why?
Some research suggests that higher grades in non-science courses "pull" some students away from science and lower grades in science course "push" them away. The anecdotal evidence in the article, which is consistent with my experience, points in a different direction.
The bulk of attrition comes in engineering and among pre-med majors, who typically leave STEM fields if their hopes for medical school fade. There is no doubt that the main majors are difficult and growing more complex. Some students still lack math preparation or aren't willing to work hard enough.Other deterrents are the tough freshman classes, typically followed by two years of fairly abstract courses leading to a senior research or design project.
[S]ome of the best-prepared students find engineering education too narrow and lacking the passion of other fields. They also see easier ways to make money.As a science professor, I can't do anything about it being easier to make money in other fields. I can do something about making my courses as useful and interesting as possible. That doesn't mean entertaining. It means sharing my passion and excitement and showing concrete examples of how the principles we study matter in my students lives.
I can't claim to be very good at it, but I hope my students at least know that I'm trying.
Bones, stones, and genes: The origin of Modern Humans
The live webcast is scheduled at 10:00am Eastern Daylight Time on the 6th and 7th of October. For a detailed schedule visit http://www.holidaylectures.org. After the 11th of October, the webcast will be available on demand from www.biointeractive.org/lectures.
Senior officials at Edinburgh University believe it is unfair to expect undergraduates to resort to pens and paper during critical assessments when most of their coursework is done using a keyboard. (source)I see the point, and I have some sympathy for it. On a good day, my handwriting is legible. On a bad day, it's godawful. It's never attractive. And I can type much more quickly than I can write longhand, even if I'm writing illegibly.
In nearly everything we ask our students to do other than taking exams, we ask them to give us printed copies,2 and many of them sit in our classes taking notes with laptops.3 Writing out sentences and paragraphs with pen and paper seems anachronistic, and it would be much easier to read the answers if they came in printed form produced on a computer.
[T]he university said safeguards would have to be built into the system to prevent cheating, such as software that prevents access to other networks during exams.There would have to be more safeguards than that, unless exams were intended to be open book. There would have to be a way of preventing students from gaining access to anything other than the document (or web page) that contained the exam. It is technically possible,4 but doing it on a scale that would allow it to be done for all exams might be prohibitively expensive. And somehow it just seems wrong, but maybe it's because when I was growing up I had to walk eight miles to school in three feet of snow uphill both ways.