well steeped in their disciplines. They must remain active in their areas of scholarship to ensure that the content of their courses is current, accurate, and balanced, especially when presenting information that may be open to alternative interpretation or disagreement by experts in the field. They also should allow all students to appreciate “… interrelationships among the sciences and the sciences’ relationship to the humanities, social sciences, and the political, economic, and social concerns of society” (NRC, 1999a, p. 26).

Knowledge of subject matter can be interpreted in other ways. For example, several recent reports (e.g., Boyer Commission, 1998; NRC, 1999a; National Science Foundation [NSF], 1996) have emphasized that the undergraduate experience should add value in tangible ways to each student’s education. Faculty must teach subject matter in ways that encourage probing, questioning, skepticism, and integration of information and ideas. They should provide students with opportunities to think more deeply about subject matter than they did in grades K–12. They should enable students to move intellectually beyond the subject matter at hand.

Faculty who possess deep knowledge and understanding of subject matter demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • They can help students learn and understand the general principles of their discipline (e.g., the processes and limits of the scientific method).

  • They are able to provide students with an overview of the whole domain of the discipline (e.g., Coppola et al., 1997).

  • They possess sufficient knowledge and understanding of their own and related sub-disciplines to answer most students’ questions and know how to help students find appropriate information.

  • They stay current through an active research program or through scholarly reading and other types of professional engagement with peers.

  • They are genuinely interested in what they are teaching.

  • They understand that conveying the infectious enthusiasm that accompanies original discovery, application of theory, and design of new products and processes is as important to learning as helping students understand the subject matter.

2. Skill, Experience, and Creativity with a Range of Appropriate Pedagogies and Technologies

Deep understanding of subject matter is critical to excellent teaching, but not sufficient. Effective teachers also understand that, over the course of their

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