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Bio 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists
ing mission, especially when assisting in novel interdisciplinary courses. The Preparing Future Faculty initiative, a joint effort of the Council of Graduate Schools and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, offers insights on how to provide graduate students with this kind of experience. Preparing Future Faculty can also help current faculty consider how student learning might vary from discipline to discipline. Additional information is available at: http://www.preparing-faculty.org/. Both faculty and TAs need to learn new subject matter and new pedagogical approaches to teaching and enhancing learning across disciplines.
A major constraint on increasing interdisciplinary education is the physical layout of the teaching facilities. The science teaching spaces on most campuses today are typically located in buildings constructed in the immediate post-Sputnik era when the U.S. government was promoting science as a way to “catch up” with the Soviets. These old spaces reflect the strong influence of the inflexible, discipline-oriented laboratory spaces of that era and are ill suited for new pedagogical approaches and the presentation of interdisciplinary science necessary to train the life scientists of the future. Laboratories were often designed in ways that make student-student interactions challenging (i.e., floor-to-ceiling lab benches and shelves). Many institutions are now planning and building new science teaching and research facilities, or renovating old ones. Planning such teaching and research space provides a unique opportunity for any institution to seek answers to the fundamental questions about how space can be arranged to optimize educational objectives. An understanding of, and focus upon, the curriculum to be taught and the learning objectives to be realized must serve as the foundation upon which new or renovated spaces are designed. Integration of curricular mission and focus, along with overall space needs, is essential before any institution can identify what kind of facilities are required for its programs. Teaching and research facilities must be designed and developed to work synergistically with new, interdisciplinary pedagogical approaches and to emulate the physical environments in which students will ultimately work. An invaluable resource to help faculty and administrators with this design and planning process is Project Kaleidoscope Volume III, Structures for Science: A Handbook on Planning Facilities for Undergraduate Natural Science Communities .