UAB'S biology department had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Sara Brownell of Arizona State University for our weekly seminar series in April 2018. Dr. Brownell is well-known for her work on STEM education pedagogy and her advocacy for active learning and student-centered teaching approaches. Her seminar, "From Conflict to Common Ground: A Call to Use Cultural Competency in Teaching Evolution", focused on work done by Dr. Brownell and her graduate student Liz Barnes about instructor/student interactions influencing acceptance of human evolution in college evolutionary biology courses. Unsurprisingly, Barnes and Brownell discovered that instructor hostility toward religion is an important factor preventing religious students from accepting evolution. Assuming that professors are unlikely to become more religious, and students are unlikely to become less so, Dr. Brownell outlined a strategy to bridge the divide by directly addressing students' beliefs. By simply acknowledging the existence of students' religious beliefs and stating that religion and evolution don't have to be mutually exclusive beliefs, Brownell increased her students' acceptance of macro evolution. In addition to acknowledging religious beliefs, educators can also use other culturally competent strategies like showing students that well-known scientists are religious. Their umbrella framework for unifying these strategies is known as Religious Cultural Competence in Evolution Education (ReCCEE). Dr. Brownell modeled many ReCCEE strategies, as well as incorporating active-learning throughout her talk. The conversation followed during a ROSE lunch, where ROSE members led a discussion with Dr. Brownell about broader education reform.
Rachel Rock, undergraduate student working in Dr. Morris' lab who got to talk with Dr. Brownell after the lunch, said, "She was an inspiration. She made me feel like there is a place for me in academia and that the research I do is relevant." As UAB is emerging in education research and reform, Dr. Brownell's talk could not have come at a more opportune time.
For more information on her lab and its interests, visit: http://sebbers.wixsite.com/biology-ed-lab
The February ROSE Network lunch meeting featured a live-streamed seminar by Dr. Malcolm Campbell from Davidson College, hosted by Dr. Anil Challa (UAB). Dr. Campbell shared with us his experiences with introducing active learning and CUREs into the introductory Biology courses at his institution. He gave us some examples of how his new textbook, “Integrating Concepts in Biology”, uses real data from classic experiments to teach core biological concepts. For example, students can work with the original data from Meselson and Stahl’s classic study that proved that DNA replication is a semi-conservative process.
We also talked extensively about Dr. Campbell’s introductory lab course that uses IGEM-style synthetic biology to let students be creative while learning lab skills and improving understanding of genetic mechanisms and systems biology. Finally, ROSE Network members from UAB and Birmingham Southern had an informative back-and-forth with Dr. Campbell about the logistical challenges of implementing these kinds of reforms in a variety of institutional settings.
Dr. Jeff Morris presents concepts and competencies to ROSE members including Dr. Peggy Biga and Dr. Mickie Powell.
We had a great first meeting of the ROSE Network today. We discussed the landmark AAAS publication Vision and Change, which lays out a plan for reforming biology education for the 21st century. Our major focus was on the Core Competencies and Core Concepts for undergraduate Biology suggested by Vision and Change. We had an active group discussion section where our network participants discussed how these Core ideas are addressed in our existing classes, and how we could approach them better in the future, especially in terms of the undergraduate Biology curriculum as a whole as opposed to in our individual courses. To learn more about Vision and Change, you can access it [here].
Finals week at UAB looks like students excitedly leaving campus to enjoy time outside of the classroom. Educators, on the other hand, often use this time for working and planning. Such was the case for ten educators who gathered at UAB's Center for Teaching and Learning this week. These educators from both UAB and Birmingham-Southern College represented the fields of Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Genetics, Organic Chemistry, and STEM Education.
Known as the Research on STEM Education network, this group of educators began to set this network in motion. The first full meeting is set to take place in January 2018.
The first ROSE meeting will be held WEDNESDAY, January 24, at 11 AM. The topic will be "Vision and Change" and lunch will be served in UAB Education Building Room 241-C.