Satuday, October 7, 2006

2006 PKAL F21 National Assembly- Break-out Session A

Coming together to...

Build collegial curricular connections within your home campus community

    Connections between Mathematics & Biology
    Stokes S. Baker- Associate Professor of Biology, University of Detroit Mercy
    A. Malcolm Campbell- Associate Professor of Biology & Director of the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching, Davidson College
    Kathryn E. Loesser-Casey- Associate Professor of Biology, University of Mary Washington
    Bonnie Shulman- Associate Professor of Mathematics, Bates College

    Working within their disciplines, biologists and mathematicians can answer many interesting questions, but collaboratively they have the potential to solve more complex problems. Rather than talking about blending math and biology, this session will model the desired outcome. Participants will work in small, interdisciplinary groups to investigate real-world biological problems that require mathematical analysis. Moreover, participants can partner with individuals from other institutions to gain new perspectives. Groups will be asked to develop useful modules or strategies to bring biology into their math courses, or math into their biology courses.

    Evolving blueprints of undergraduate interdisciplinary curricula: Neuroscience as a case study
    Christopher Korey- Assistant Professor of Biology, College of Charleston
    Erik Wiertelak- Professor of Psychology & Director of Neuroscience Studies, Macalester College

    Neuroscience is an inherently interdisciplinary scientific pursuit. A significant challenge facing neuroscience educators is to develop and deliver undergraduate curricula that are truly interdisciplinary. Limited resources and interdepartmental cultures, among other factors, often impede successful program implementation. These obstacles may be particularly troublesome at small institutions or where there are one or two neuroscientists. Participants in this session will work in small teams to develop successful strategies for overcoming these obstacles. Models for various undergraduate neuroscience curricula that were re-visited during a recent joint PKAL/Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience (FUN) workshop at Macalester College will facilitate the work of teams.

    Computational sciences at the undergraduate level: A paradigm for interdisciplinary connections
    Ignatios Vakalis- Professor of Mathematics & Computer Science, Capital University

    Computational science is a fairly new term, describing the applications of computing to the solution of scientific and engineering problems. What computational scientists seek to create is mathematical models that help them simulate and understand natural processes, and to visualize models. In the context of this assembly, exploring the new world of computational sciences fits precisely into the discussion about how to ‘come together’ to strengthen student learning in STEM fields. This is for two reasons: first, the very nature of the field, which enables chemists and biologists and other scientists to use the theories and tools of computational sciences to study phenomena that it would be difficult to examine through traditional means.

    For example, computational models allow life science researchers to simulate what happens when drug molecules interact with viruses; among the many benefits from such an approach is the difficulty and costliness of building physical prototypes when instead, using computational science techniques, one can test how many different chemical would interact with a protein—an opportunity to try many ‘virtual’ experiments before a real one is conducted, or a physical prototype created. The other ‘coming together’ benefit is that the world of computational sciences goes beyond the academic community, as business and industry find this method equally valuable because of the dollars saved. More important, corporations find it easier to try out risky and innovative ideas through computer modeling before they must commit to building a physical prototype.

    I’ve been involved for almost a decade in piloting, prototyping, establishing and scaling-up tools for computational sciences in the undergraduate learning environment—working with colleagues across the disciplines and beyond academe. In this session we will explore some of the models through which computational sciences serve our colleague in chemistry and biology, as well as those in the businesses and industries who hire our students upon graduation.

Focus on student learning

    Mentoring & theories of learning
    Bruce W. Grant- Associate Professor of Biology, Widener University

    This session "will articulate and explore the necessary skills, capacities, and tools: (1) to measure science content and concept misconceptions that students bring to class upon which new content and concepts will be built (i.e., to understand what students know to begin with and what works to dislodge students' misconceptions), (2) to measure students' learning capacities, abilities, styles, attitudes, self-efficacies, and especially their cultural rules of engagement (classroom ethnography) not only with science as "a way of knowing" but also with the pedagogy of science education, which includes their preconceptions about school or "science" authority figures, peer-learning communities, etc. (i.e. to understand the diverse and culturally shaped ways of learning and knowing about science [effects of culture on metacognition in science]), and (3) to engage in a scientific learning community in which teachers research and share findings with other practitioner researcher peers to articulate learning challenges, formulate causal hypotheses, design novel methods, collect and analyze data, and share results about how to teach better (i.e. to attain personal agency in improving teaching and learning).

Connect beyond your home campus community

    Building K-16 connections: How can we scale our efforts to reach out to lots of schools and teachers? Some lessons from the trenches
    Robert A. Kolvoord- Professor of Integrated Science & Technology, James Madison University

    The recognition of the need to create a seamless education system that spans the Pre K – Graduate School spectrum is not new. The connections between the institutions are numerous from the teacher training programs at many of our institutions to our dependence on the secondary system for entering students with the skills needed to succeed in higher education. Many initiatives are under discussion across the country at the multiple levels from state legislations to individual institutions. A seamless educational system will educate students as one coordinated unit in contrast to current systems that are highly segmented and where there is little coordination, communication and collaboration among the institutions involved. In this session we will describe some of the efforts already underway and we will discuss how we can personally help bring about change.

Technology-enabled interdisciplinary and inter-institutional partnerships

    Technology-Enabled Interdisciplinary and Inter-Institutional Partnerships
    J.B. Sharma- Professor of Physics, Gainesville College
    Ishrat M. Kahn- Professor of Chemistry, Clark Atlanta University

    This session will focus on the use of technology to enable seamless partnerships between institutions that span the entire higher education spectrum and that may be geographically dispersed. Academic partnerships that connect two-year colleges, four-year colleges and research universities have the promise of:

    • fostering a dialog between all constituent institutions of higher education
    • bringing the excitement of cutting edge research at universities to 4 year and 2 year classrooms
    • using the curricular development expertise at undergraduate and graduate institutions to develop and implement assessable activities based on current research topics in undergraduate and K12 classrooms
    • fostering inter-institutional and interdisciplinary scholarship
    • a higher education partnership acting in concert to do a outreach that brings contemporary science to K12 classrooms.

    This session will begin with a presentation of a case study "A NanoScience-Based Telecollaboratory" of a two-year and research university partnership, which has laid the groundwork for expanding this partnership to other undergraduate and K-12 institutions. Clark Atlanta University and Gainesville State College have collaborated to pilot a "Nanoscience Telecollaboratory." An Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) resident in the Chemistry Department at CAU was operated remotely via the www by undergraduate students at GSC to image nanostructures.

    The details and the lessons learned from this project and future plans will be discussed in this opening presentation. This will include a demonstration of operating the AFM remotely.

Work toward institutional transformation

    Designing facilities for the 21st century learner
    Susan B. Chaplin- Professor of Biology, University of St. Thomas
    Timothy L. Lewis- Professor & Chair of Biology, Wittenberg University
    Mary Sue Lowery- Professor of Biology, University of San Diego

    As the nature of science becomes more interdisciplinary and steeped in research, the teaching and learning spaces for undergraduate STEM must reflect this trend. As institutions address this trend, they must consider the planning implications that new and newly-adopted curricula will have on new spaces. The opportunities for institutional transformation presented by the facilities planning process are simply too good to pass up.

    Three F21 members who have served as project shepherds for major facilities projects on their campus will describe how the process works— from getting commitment to a common vision, to dealing with nuts & bolts decisions about number and placement of white boards, to realizing new spaces that enhance institutional distinction.