can be facilitators of learning rather than directors of learning. “You don’t always have to be the person with this font of knowledge that you’re going to pour out.” For example, an approach that can interest students more than lecturing is problem-based learning, she said. Undergraduate research experiences of many different types also can convince students to remain in science disciplines.
Regarding tests, a strategy Carter used when she taught is to have students take an exam twice. The first time they do it closed book and on their own. The second time they can bring anything they want into the classroom and have an open discussion among themselves about the answers. Many students told Carter that they learned more from discussing their viewpoints than they did from almost any other activity they did in her classroom.
David Mindell from the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco remarked on the value of getting students into the field to connect evolutionary biology with nature. Students are increasingly from urban populations and settings, he said. “They have no feeling for the organism, in my experience in teaching undergraduates, or they have relatively little. It can make a huge difference to take them out on at least one and ideally multiple trips to the field to let them see organisms in the wild.” Such experiences can cement the concepts students learn in a classroom and help them become scientifically literate adults.
According to Richard Potts, Director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution, it is possible to use depictions of evolution in popular culture to teach students, including both realistic ideas about evolution and “terribly wrong” ideas. For example, a discussion of phylogenetic analysis on the CSI television show can motivate students to learn more about the subject. Students “suddenly feel that now it’s relevant to them because, well, if it’s on CSI, then it’s something they care about.”
Steve Klein from NSF emphasized the value of knowledge for its own sake. People are very interested in basic sciences such as astronomy, whether it benefits their lives or not. “We need to explain to people that it’s a natural human function to try to understand the world we live in.”
Better Preparation for Students and Teachers
The summer between high school and college offers many opportunities to motivate and prepare students for college, said Schwartz during his prepared remarks as a panelist. Bridge classes, math boot camps, laboratory classes, mentoring opportunities, seminars on study habits, and many other possibilities exist. The key, said Schwartz, “is to have a repertoire of pedagogies to be able to address as many of those students and as many of those groups as you can, … whether you are talking