plinary perspectives, or creation of consortia with other campuses to share faculty expertise, facilities, and other resources.

THE EVOLVING ROLE OF DEPARTMENTS

The requirements for biology majors should be considered. Do students take courses in chemistry, physics, and mathematics departments? Do the biology faculty refer to the concepts taught in those courses in their own teaching? Do the chemistry, physics, and mathematics faculty use biological examples? Do laboratories emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of scientific research and actively make connections between disciplines? Are teaching assistants prepared to help students grasp such connections? What skills should students have when they complete their undergraduate program? Has the institution or department implemented a mechanism for measuring the success of students and faculty at reaching those goals? Designing a more interdisciplinary course of study requires answers to these questions, and the answers will often require reaching out to faculty and administrators outside of the department. In addition, it is challenging yet important to balance the needs of students with different career goals. While interdisciplinary education in biology is crucial to preparing the next generation of biomedical researchers, it also presents an opportunity to demonstrate real-world examples that will intrigue biology students. The courses and curricula proposed in Chapter 2 should help stimulate discussion among faculty as they consider their current course offering and the best ways to improve interdisciplinary learning for their students.

There are sound academic and administrative reasons for having disciplinary science departments. Disciplines attract students who then become practitioners because the students find the questions in a particular area intriguing. Successful students find the disciplines that best match their interests and individual skills. Yet faculty who teach within a discipline often are not able to make the kind of connections they hope their students can grasp. This is a major barrier to the interdisciplinary education the committee seeks to promote. Even very bright students often fail to transfer what they learn in one course to another, or to applications outside the classroom. Recent research on student learning has identified some of the key characteristics promoting learning and transfer: initial learning is essential; knowledge that is too contextualized can reduce transfer; abstraction can promote transfer; transfer is an active dynamic process; existing



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