Two UNL faculty were appointed a National Academies Education Fellow in the Life Sciences for 2010-2011. Cheryl Bailey, assistant professor of biochemistry, and Thomas “Jack” Morris, distinguished professor of biological sciences, earned the designation by being selected to attend the 2010 National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology that occurred June 21-26 at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
UNL was one of 18 participant teams in the summer institute - the goal of which is to transform biology education at research universities by improving classroom education and attracting more diverse students to research. The target group was comprised of both new and experienced instructors who teach courses that include introductory or survey biology, introductory molecular biology/genetics, and introductory ecology/evolution courses with high enrollments.
Eighteen pairs of faculty from 18 different research universities were selected, although some institutions sent three faculty members. Universities included Harvard University and Boston College, Stanford University and University of California, Berkeley, to name a few.
The institute trains a new generation of faculty by introducing them to a scientific approach to teaching that reflects the way faculty function as researchers.
The institute format is designed to model the scientific teaching principles of active learning, assessment, and diversity. Activities include reflective writing, planning, reading, researching, discussing teaching methods and philosophy, interactive presentations, and developing effective teaching materials that all of the participants teach and evaluate at their home institutions in the ensuing academic year.
In addition to developing classroom teaching skills and materials, participants learn how to teach seminars about mentoring and scientific teaching. The mentoring seminar is directed toward graduate students and postdocs who are supervising undergraduates in the research lab. The scientific teaching workshops can be used to foster dialog about teaching with faculty and instructional colleagues, to train TAs in teaching, or to enrich the graduate curriculum in teaching. The seminar materials are well-developed and tested, making them easy to present with little preparation or time commitment.
The instructional materials and the mentoring and teaching seminar materials are accompanied by assessment tools that participants administer. The results of the initiatives from all of the campuses are shared with the participants and published. Participants’ campuses provide financial support to their teams to facilitate the implementation of these new teaching initiatives.
“By sending a team to the National Academies Summer Institute, your institution is at the forefront of improvement of undergraduate education that is so essential for preparing both future scientists and scientifically literate citizens,” said Barbara A. Schaal, vice president of the National Academy of Sciences.