Breakout session A:
Creating a Curriculum Connecting the 'Two Cultures'...

Breakout session A
Creating a Curriculum Connecting the 'Two Cultures': A Crossdisciplinary Course of Study for Working Adults

Saturday, November 8, 2003
9:45 - 11:00 am

David Eastzer, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology- City University of New York

[Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology] would become an integral part of the curriculum for all undergraduate students through required introductory course that engage all students in STEM and their connections to society and the human condition.
- Transforming Undergraduate Education in SME&T, National Research Council, 1999, p. 25

The recent NRC (1999) report on science education reform issues the challenge quoted above to college science faculty. In order to implement this reform, STEM faculty are encouraged to work "with colleagues in the humanities and social sciences to develop courses that provide students with broader exposure to and perspectives of the relationships among these areas of knowledge" (p. 31).

In this workshop, I will outline my attempts to meet this challenge in interdisciplinary science courses developed for working adults attending CCNY's Center for Worker Education, who are returning to or beginning their college education after many years. I have found that one of the most effective ways of overcoming their science phobia is to utilize the perspective of those social scientists and humanists who take the natural sciences as their object of study. This crossdisciplinary approach conveys to students 1) that science is indeed a human activity that is accessible to their understanding, 2) how the 'scientific enterprise' actually works in practice, and 3) that science has direct relevance to decisions that affect them, their families and the society.

After briefly introducing the structure and discussing the syllabi of some of the courses I have developed, (e.g., 'Plagues Past and Present' and 'From Frankenstein to Frankenfoods'), we will work together on some of the exercises and pedagogical strategies used to stimulate classroom discussion and in the design of assignments. These strategies include 1) the use of 'screening scripts' to actively engage students in conversations about videos, 2) the assignment of newspaper or magazine articles which reveal how scientific controversies link empirical findings with scientific theories (and affect theory choice or theory change, or not), as well as articles which expose scientists at work and the process of 'science-in-the-making', as opposed to the dry textbook presentations of 'science made', and 3) explorations of how individuals of different genders, ethnic origins or social classes may interpret the meaning of scientific information in different ways, as well as 4) the use of active learning techniques such as role-playing.

Participants will then form disciplinary-specific groups, and each will be provided with suitable materials from which they will work together to brainstorm and develop exercises or assignments which apply some of the ideas discussed in the workshop, and share ideas with the group. The workshop will close with a brief discussion of and invitation to join a Faculty Development Seminar Series that will bring together scholars from the Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences to facilitate an ongoing discussion of these issues.