Making biology education more interdisciplinary and representative of how biological research is actually conducted is critically dependent on the availability of new and innovative teaching materials. Teaching materials are not solely textbooks; they also include computer-based materials, instructor guides, modules, and case studies. Textbooks that bridge different disciplines and provide a coherent framework for study and learning can play a vital role in achieving the objective of more interdisciplinary and relevant biology education. Many high-quality biology textbooks are available, but publishers could do more. For example, it is especially rare to find detailed mention of physical science or mathematical principles in introductory biology texts. The committee is not aware of any comparative analysis of biology textbooks for the college level; however, two different groups, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Biological Sciences, have evaluated biology textbooks used in high schools. Both groups conclude that the books provide massive quantities of information, which may result in sacrificing depth and conceptual understanding as teachers attempt to cover the material (http://www.project2061.org/newsinfo/research/textbook/hsbio/about.htm) Some of the suggestions made in these reports may prove useful to those writing or revising college textbooks.
Representative texts that emphasize interdisciplinary aspects of science are given in the box at the end of the chapter.1 Although the list is not comprehensive, many more are needed. In selecting these titles, the committee looked for books that drew connections between multiple scientific disciplines. Although not all the books listed reflect recent scientific advances, they do illustrate exemplary approaches to their topics. Educational institutions, professional societies, private and public foundations, and publishers should work together to ensure that interdisciplinary materials are produced. The National Institute for Science Education’s College Level One team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been active in developing teaching materials as well as promoting and conducting research on learning, teaching, and assessment. Their five-year funding cycle from NSF has ended, but it is hoped that this will not be the end of the innovative work they have done.