learning, several speakers and discussants including Brian Reiser, Northwestern University, and Gloria Rogers, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, argued that in preparing an effective science course, faculty must identify explicit, measurable learning objectives or outcomes (defined as what students need to know and be able to do by the end of each unit of instruction). A critical question was whether learning outcomes should be limited to a list of content terms, or—as proposed by one of the workshop speakers—should they consist of a framework of facts, central concepts, reasoning skills, and competencies such as the skills needed to think critically, an understanding of what constitutes evidence, and the ability to design a simple experiment?
With reference to issue 2, Paula Heron, University of Washington, described evidence that students’ preconceptions may be resistant to change by traditional didactic instruction such as lecturing. She demonstrated that students come to any topic with prior beliefs and conceptions that are often incomplete or erroneous, and that require carefully designed, specific measures to correct. Participants repeatedly acknowledged that judging an instructor’s knowledge and skill in applying such measures should be among the criteria for assessing instruction and for evaluating the extent to which instructors have at their command a variety of teaching strategies, in addition to lecturing, that are able to elicit a correct and deeper understanding of the subject on the part of students. According to the evidence reviewed, lecturing promotes memorization of factual information while more effective instruction that helps students gain functional knowledge requires teaching methods that assist them in explicitly reconciling their preconceptions with new information.
Further in response to issue 2, participants discussed the need for better assessment tools for evaluating course design and effective instruction. Anton Lawson, Arizona State University, emphasized results showing that the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) could serve as a useful instrument for judging some aspects of teaching, and recommended that this tool might serve as a model for an