Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teaching and learning evolutionary principles


Thursday, May 10, 2012
3:30-4:30 p.m.
LSB 1001 (Rathmann Auditorium)


Michael Klymkowsky
Professor of Genetics and Director of CU Teach
Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
University of Colorado Boulder

MCDB Seminar:  Teaching and learning evolutionary principles, Socratically.
Thursday, May 10th at 3:30 pm in LSB 1001

Professor Klymkowsky’s academic research spans a wide range of interests from basic research into the embryonic patterning and gene regulatory networks in Xenopus laevis, at one extreme, to his passion for educational research at the other extreme. In this seminar he will address his recent activates in the realm of STEM education that broadly encompass effective teacher education; coherent biology course and curricular design and delivery; and improving student learning.  His basic mantra is that effective teaching requires awareness and accurate understanding by the instructor of the thinking and implicit assumptions that students bring to the subject to be learned, all of which can be deceptively difficult to assess and respond to with effective pedagogy. Through a multipronged approach untaken in collaboration with other science educators and educational research experts, he is attempting to improve undergraduate introductory biology instruction by identifying and emphasizing fundamental concepts that unite all of biology and, at the same time, measuring student learning gains to validate best instructional practices.

Although his title suggests that the central focus of his seminar will be on teaching evolution, this topic serves as but one of many examples of difficult concepts students encounter in the biology curriculum and that instructors find challenging to teach effectively.  Drawing on the success of the physics concept inventory in terms of revising the curriculum for teaching physics undergraduates the laws of Newtonian mechanics, Mike has helped develop a biology concept inventory along the same lines and he is using it to assess student learning gains and instructor effectiveness in different classroom situations.  In essence, he is driven to ask deep questions like these:  Which concepts do students really need to know for life-long understanding of biology?  Do traditional teaching methods develop student understanding of these concepts in ways that achieve this goal?   Are there more effective ways to promote student learning in these areas?  His efforts to find research-based answers for such questions will be addressed in his seminar.

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