Implementing the recommendations of this report will require a significant commitment of resources, both intellectual and financial. One important step is to consider the qualifications desired in a graduating biology major. For a school that is starting with a conventional modern biology curriculum, the committee envisions that multiple levels of transition would be necessary to fully incorporate physics, chemistry, mathematics, and engineering into the education of future biomedical researchers. Indeed a complete curriculum transformation would require alterations in departmental structures that may not be feasible in the short term. However, all institutions are capable of undertaking an initial stage of reform such as investigating how their teaching can better promote transfer of information among disciplines and the development and use of effective curricular modules in biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer science, and engineering courses.
Creation of new interdisciplinary majors is a significant challenge, often necessitating the hiring of new faculty with experience doing interdisciplinary research and teaching interdisciplinary topics. Thus, a second stage in reform might target the development of new interdisciplinary courses for the math and physics curricula proposed here, together with new interdisciplinary laboratory courses. Subsequent steps might include the design of new interdisciplinary majors, searching for new faculty hires with expertise in interdisciplinary topics and ways to teach effectively from interdisci-
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
knowledge can sometimes lead to deep misunderstanding of new information. Departments and faculty need to utilize this educational research to guide curricular and pedagogical reform so that transfer between disciplines is promoted. This would promote immediate improvement in interdisciplinary education without need for abrupt reorganization of departments.
To develop an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, faculty must consider both content and pedagogy. For example, biology course content would be examined to find topics that require quantitative skills on the part of researchers. These could be examined to see how the quantitative material could be incorporated into the course, and discussion with the mathematics or other departments could ensue to see how these are being taught. This would be followed by considering, in turn, other ways that chemistry, physics, computer science, engineering, and mathematics can intersect with the topics in the course. Such changes may be difficult, but interdisciplinary teaching and interdisciplinary collaborations produce multiple benefits. Establishing partnerships with colleagues in other departments can lead to collaborations in research as well as teaching. Initial teaching of, for example, a module on the fluid dynamics of blood flow in a physiology course could be done by a colleague in physics or math. For the biology faculty, incorporating such a module would be an opportunity to learn the underlying physical science and mathematics and potentially learn the skills necessary to subsequently teach the module independently. By starting with small modules and focusing on the transfer of disciplinary material, there would be minimal change in curriculum, the biology faculty could keep the course coherent, and the students would gradually become accustomed to the teaching approach.
Further interdisciplinary teaching can be attempted by the complete restructuring of a course or the revamping of the curriculum. Successful redesign of courses and curricula (as opposed to modules) requires a much larger investment of faculty time, departmental encouragement, and significant support from the college or university administration. Faculty must master new material, delete material from preexisting courses to accommodate the new material, and adapt their teaching style to the new approach. In almost all institutions, systemic change in the curriculum lies beyond the reach of individual faculty members. In addition, sustaining change requires the creation of an institutional culture in which faculty
receive appropriate support from their colleagues, department chairs, and those in control of the university budget.
REFORM INITIATIVES AND ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT
Colleges and universities cannot expect excellent teaching unless they actively support faculty development. Administrators need to recognize the time and effort required by encouraging faculty to take advantage of campus resources (such as teaching and learning centers and computer services) and supporting them for travel to conferences, workshops, and courses where they can learn and practice new teaching approaches and share their experiences with other faculty. As stated earlier, implanting the ideas of this report will take significant intellectual and financial resources.
For interdisciplinary education to become a reality, colleges and universities must provide incentives and help eliminate disincentives to interdepartmental collaborations. The disincentives often come about when allocation of teaching credit and the condition and organization of the physical facilities are under departmental control. Decreasing barriers and increasing communication between departments will require mechanisms that facilitate faculty teaching out-of-department courses. These will often require increasing the recognition and rewards for faculty who teach outside of their department, possibly by allocating credit hours for teaching based on the department of the faculty member instead of the department listing the course. Interdisciplinary innovation also will require substantial faculty time and effort to develop new course materials, adapt existing curricula to their particular needs,1 and learn new topics. Departments and colleges must find new ways to make these resources available to help faculty and to recognize and reward their efforts. Again, departmental structures must evolve to meet these new needs.
At many institutions, graduate teaching assistants also play an important educational role. They must receive more preparation for their teach-
The National Science Foundation’s Division of Undergraduate Education now offers support to faculty who seek to adopt and adapt existing modules and curricula to their own circumstances. This Adaptation and Implementation program is a component of the long-established Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement initiative. For additional information: http://www.ehr.nsf.gov/ehr/DUE/programs/ccli/
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 .
NATIONAL NETWORKS FOR REFORM
Transformation of the undergraduate biology currculum is tied to issues that extend beyond the reach of a single campus. Issues related to faculty rewards, recognition, respect, and promotion and tenure are national in scope. Many individuals, institutions, organizations, and informal networks are working to address these issues. Many disciplinary societies have education committees that address undergraduate teaching. Some, such as the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), employ full-time staff to make these efforts more successful. ASM holds two education meetings annually, one focused on faculty and the other on undergraduates themselves. Other groups devoted to undergraduate education in biology are less formal. The Association of College & University Biology Educators (ACUBE) was first established in 1957 as the Association of Midwest College Biology Teachers, but now tries to attract more nationwide participation. ACUBE works to improve the teaching of the biological sciences, identify common problems involving biological curricula, encourage active participation in biological research by teachers and students in the belief that such participation is an invaluable adjunct to effective teaching, and create a collective voice for teachers of the biological sciences. Additional information is available at http://www.acube.org/.
One group with a national reach is Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL). PKAL members include faculty from all types of colleges and universities and all disciplines of the sciences. An important feature of PKAL is that participants in disciplinary and interdisciplinary workshops leave with specific action plans to implement on their home campus. Project Kaleidoscope has worked since 1989 to identify and disseminate sound principles and methods on which to base undergraduate education in the natural sciences and mathematics. The PKAL reform movement has used a multidisciplinary approach, bringing scientists from many disciplines together to work through common issues. It operates by looking for “what works” and encouraging others to apply those approaches in their own teaching. PKAL is currently focusing on the importance of institutional change and building design in educational reform. Its meetings, workshops, and institutes have helped to break down some of the barriers between chemists and biologists, particularly among the younger generation of faculty involved in PKAL’s Faculty for the 21st Century. This initiative provides support for young professors who have been recognized by their academic deans as emerging education leaders by linking them with similar
faculty at other institutions. PKAL also has significant experience in addressing the question of how to effect change, and its strategy focuses on promoting reform at the grassroots. Additional information is available at http://pkal.org.
NURTURING THE PRODUCTION OF NEW BOOKS AND OTHER TEACHING MATERIALS
As was discussed earlier, the transformation of undergraduate biology education is critically dependent on the availability of new texts and monographs, project-based laboratory guides and materials, and modules to enhance interdisciplinary education. The potential formats of these needed teaching materials are diverse and complementary: printed books and guides, CDs and videos, Web sites, and interactive computer programs. The most effective and influential teaching materials arise from the creative activity of committed scientists and educators. This is an exciting and rapidly changing area not only because of the evolving combinations of textbooks, computerized materials, labs and simulation programs, but also because of the changing roles of commercial publishers, software developers, and nonprofit institutions and organizations.
To facilitate the design and production of these materials, individual colleges and universities must support these efforts. They do not necessarily need to provide the financial support that could come from other sources. However, faculty members will need to devote considerable time to conduct background research and to ensure that content is appropriate and accessible. Faculty also need time and resources to prepare new teaching materials or to find ways to adopt and adapt existing materials to their particular circumstances. Colleges and universities should provide sabbaticals and release time in the form of defined periods of reduced professional responsibilities (teaching, service, or research) to enable prospective authors to concentrate on such development work. Educational institutions, foundations, and publishing companies can encourage and catalyze innovative authoring in many ways. The development of teaching materials requires computer and visualization resources, and staff or students who are knowledgeable in their use in order to fully develop new teaching concepts and approaches. The design and promotion of the new materials can be greatly enhanced by consulting professionals in graphics or marketing. Private foundations can play a key role by financing these types of resources and also by sponsoring new works while they are still in their early stages of
development, particularly those that do not conform to what publishers perceive as fitting into the current marketplace. Publishers will step in when proof-of-principle is established. Foundations can help initiate innovative new projects and bring them to the point of commercial viability. Web sites can also play a valuable role in making interdisciplinary topics accessible to both faculty and students, and their role seems likely to grow in the future.
Second, professional societies and other national organizations can play a major role in furthering the creation of new teaching materials. They have a keen sense of the cutting edge of their disciplines. They also possess the stature to bring together prospective authors from different institutions and to enter into partnerships with publishing companies to produce and market new works (e.g., the American Chemical Society’s current development of a new general chemistry text). Third, a wealth of teaching material exists on the Internet, but information about the quality and effectiveness of most of it is not readily accessible. Too much time can be spent in searching for the right video or in deciphering a program or set of data in order to use it in the classroom. Highly selective and curated Internet sites for educational purposes are needed, such as the National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library being developed by the National Science Foundation.2 Simple uniform graphical user interfaces would help greatly in furthering the extensive and facile use of these wonderful resources. The scientific community also could increase the attractiveness of authorship by honoring faculty who have created innovative educational works. Such awards would call attention to the best new materials and highlight their value to educational institutions.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR IMPROVING UNDERGRADUATE BIOLOGY EDUCATION
The reform of undergraduate biology education is a complex task that will require substantial financial resources. Curriculum development, as-
The National STEM Education Digital Library program (NSDL) project is composing digital libraries in multiple scientific disciplines in order to facilitate the online sharing of learning environments and resources for STEM education. The digital library will serve as an effective way to hold a large compilation of STEM educational research and tools in a structured manner to facilitate easy access to its contents. Additional information is available at http://www.ehr.nsf.gov/ehr/DUE/programs/nsdl/.
sessment and evaluation, sustainable change, and faculty development all entail costs. In most cases, only a limited amount of those resources will come from the individual college or university. The two principal organizations that have funded undergraduate biology education are NSF and HHMI.
NSF supports a diverse array of projects in undergraduate science education. These projects fund activities such as research by undergraduates. One example is the REU programs in which each student is assigned to a specific research project and works together with faculty, postdocs, and graduate students for one summer. Other programs include faculty research at primarily undergraduate institutions (RUI), curricular reform, design of materials for assessment, and dissemination of information across the country. NSF has begun awarding the title of Distinguished Teaching Scholar to a small number of faculty members who have contributed greatly to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. One of the goals of the program is to increase the recruitment of other faculty to work on science education. The program aims to reward individuals who have contributed to the scholarship of STEM education, and also hold an exemplary record of instructing undergraduates. In the first two rounds of awards, announced in November 2001 and May 2002, no biologists were named as Distinguished Teaching Scholars.
The Centers of Learning and Teaching (CLT) are multiyear grants to consortia of individuals and organizations that develop and implement research-based programs to address the issues and needs of the STEM instructional workforce. They design and implement new approaches to assessment, research on learning, curriculum and materials development, and research-based instruction. Originally the centers focused only on K-12 education, but NSF now plans to fund two centers that focus on postsecondary education. NSF also supports the Chautauqua series of summer faculty development courses.
Another area of effort for NSF is programs designed to increase understanding of how students learn. Research on Learning and Education (ROLE) supports research into the brain and behavioral, cognitive, affective, and social aspects of human learning, as well as research on STEM learning in formal and informal settings. The Assessment of Student Achievement in Undergraduate Education (ASA) program supports the development and distribution of materials on the effectiveness of courses, curricula, programs of study, and academic institutions that promote STEM learning. ASA supports the development of new assessment tools, the ad-
aptation of assessment materials, and the dissemination of effective assessment practices through workshops and web-based learning. The Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) program attempts to improve STEM education through changes in learning environments, course content, curricula, and educational practices. The program has three tracks. First, Educational Material Development focuses on producing new, innovative materials, such as textbooks, that incorporate effective learning practices in order to enhance student comprehension in STEM. Second, the National Dissemination project seeks to provide faculty members with development opportunities, such as workshops, in order to implement effective educational practices as well as improve the quality of their teaching. Finally, adaptation and implementation projects aim to improve STEM education by implementing previously tested and developed educational practices into the curricula of STEM. (More discussion of this project is found in footnote 2 in this chapter.)
The federal government is not the only source of funding for projects in undergraduate biology education. Private institutions play a crucial role, most notably the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. HHMI invested more than $476 million between 1987 and 2001 to support improvements in biology education at 232 colleges and universities. Their investment has transformed biology instruction at these institutions, in ways ranging from developing new curricula, hiring new faculty, promoting faculty development, and supporting independent research by undergraduate students. Many examples of outstanding programs can be found on their Web site and in publications (such as Beyond Bio 101), including examples of integration of science teaching across disciplines, especially at small colleges. The institute also has recently launched the HHMI Professors program to honor and support faculty who provide leadership in undergraduate education. The first awards were made in the fall of 2002 to biologists with excellent credentials in both teaching and research.
One foundation that has had a major impact in building an interdisciplinary approach is the Whitaker Foundation. Whitaker funds projects to enhance research and education in biomedical engineering in the United States and Canada. Biomedical engineering combines computer and engineering technology with the study of complex biological systems, and is an inherently interdisciplinary field. Departments of biomedical engineering draw faculty from many different disciplines. Established in 1975 by U.A. Whitaker, the foundation has already dispensed $600 million and will spend down its endowment to completely phase out its operations by 2006.
Whitaker (www.whitaker.org) supports a variety of programs including faculty research (300 projects), creation or expansion of departments of biomedical engineering, fellowships for graduate students (180 students), internships in industry and at NIH (120 programs), creation of teaching materials and conferences, and workshops in biomedical engineering. The foundation has recently consolidated a number of initiatives into Leadership and Development Awards that provide substantial funding to institutions committed to continuing to build up biomedical engineering after the foundation closes its doors.
The foundation held a Biomedical Engineering Educational Summit in December 2000 that brought together 123 institutions from the United States and Canada and 24 overseas institutions (http://summit.whitaker.org). It was designed to review the wide variety of interdisciplinary programs receiving Whitaker support. The summit participants did not agree on one unique curriculum that would suit all schools because each institution has molded its biomedical engineering program to its mission and the needs of its faculty and students. The summit highlighted the fact that like other engineering programs, those in biomedical engineering frequently incorporate real-world problems and tasks into their curricula. Most of the departments emphasize critical thinking, teamwork, interpersonal skills, group decisions, analysis and problem-solving processes, and oral and written communication skills in their courses. Biomedical engineering laboratories are designed to incorporate equipment and procedures that are common in the workplace. In many cases, computer simulations are used when the actual procedures cannot be carried out. The development of biomedical engineering over the past decade demonstrates that a focused effort, such as that undertaken by the Whitaker Foundation, has the potential to catalyze the growth of a new interdisciplinary field, both in terms of its research and its educational curriculum.
HARMONIZING THE UNDERGRADUATE SCIENCE EDUCATION OF FUTURE GRADUATE STUDENTS AND MEDICAL STUDENTS
Medical school admissions requirements and the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) are hindering change in the undergraduate biology curriculum and should be reexamined in light of the recommendations in this report.
Innovation in undergraduate biology education is constrained by medical school admission requirements and specifically by the MCAT exam. The committee recommends that an independent review of medical school admission requirements and testing be conducted in light of the rapidly changing nature of biological and biomedical research, and the consequent need to transform undergraduate science education.
The curricular demands placed on undergraduate programs by students who want to score well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) have a major impact on the curriculum and course content of all life science majors, especially at schools where the same courses are offered to premeds and those headed for research careers. This is especially true of the chemistry courses taken by the majority of life science majors. Most medical schools in the United States require applicants to have completed one year of general chemistry and one year of organic chemistry. In addition, satisfactory performance on the MCAT is a key admission requirement for medical school. Changes that would likely benefit both groups of students are limited by the need to prepare premedical students for medical school admission committees and the current format of the MCAT itself, although it is by no means clear that the current testing regime is particularly relevant to preparing future physicians of the 21st century. Indeed, premedical students constitute a substantial proportion of the next generation of biomedical researchers who will need to be leaders in the same dynamically changing landscape of biomedical research as life science majors. Medicine itself is becoming more interdisciplinary, and future physicians could also benefit from the interdisciplinary changes called for in this report.
A change in the MCAT itself, or in the way it is used for medical school admissions, would allow the biology curriculum to develop in a way that is beneficial to all students instead of allowing the content of the MCAT to dictate what students are taught.
THE CENTRAL ROLE OF FACULTY DEVELOPMENT IN CURRICULUM TRANSFORMATION
Undergraduate biology education can be effectively transformed only through close and sustained collaboration between colleges, universities, government agencies, professional societies, and foundations. It is often assumed that once a useful pedagogical approach is identified, it will be reproducible, easy to disseminate, and simple for another faculty member
to implement in his/her home institution. The reality is that in teaching, as in research, faculty need to be trained to carry out new tasks and their efforts to do so need to be recognized. Investing in Faculty, a recent Project Kaleidoscope report, comments on the importance of faculty development and presents “An Investment Roadmap” describing ways institutions can enhance teaching (PKAL, 2000). Making Teaching Community Property focuses more on actions by faculty, including mentoring of new faculty, team teaching, and collaborative approaches to inquiry. A historical perspective on faculty responsibilities is presented in Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professorate .
Faculty development is a crucial component to improving undergraduate biology education. Efforts must be made on individual campuses and nationally to provide faculty the time necessary to refine their own understanding of how the integrative relationships of biology, mathematics, and the physical sciences can be best melded into either existing courses or new courses in the particular areas of science in which they teach.
The committee recommends the creation of a new venue to promote discussion, analyze outcomes, and sustain innovation in the reform of undergraduate biology education. An annual summer institute dedicated to faculty development for biology professors (and other science faculty as appropriate) would be an effective and appropriate means of building on the ideas of Bio2010 and fostering continued innovation in biology education.
The institute that the committee proposes would be modeled after the Cold Spring Harbor summer courses, which played a historic role in the shaping of modern biology. Those courses provide a seamless combination of presentations, discussions, and experiments, with students (faculty, postdocs, and graduate students), instructors, and visiting speakers living together on the grounds. The sharing of data, ideas, and methods is a continuum that takes place in the lab, over meals, and during social interludes. The community that grew out of this intimate and intensive learning environment helped give birth to molecular biology as a scientific discipline. A comparable institute for biology education would help nurture the growth of a similar kind of community. Success would require a long-term commitment to the project and sufficient staff to facilitate the efforts of faculty during the fall, winter, and spring.
A summer institute for biology education would be a venue for faculty to share information and experiences. It would help to increase communication between research universities and primarily undergraduate institutions by bringing faculty from both types of institutions together to learn from each other. It would facilitate the development, adaptation, and dissemination of innovative courses and course materials while providing training workshops for faculty and encouraging the development of a community of scientists/educators. The institute would promote a better integration of research and education at the research universities while giving teaching institutions better access to leading-edge research. The courses and workshops taught at the institute would consider pedagogical approaches and teaching materials as well as the overall content and architecture of courses and curricula. Discussions of how to adapt the ideas to fit other scientific topics, course structures, and institutions would be a major component of each workshop. Given the heterogeneity of the U.S. system of higher education, no single model is broadly applicable. One of the most important aspects of such summer courses is that the participants would learn how to develop necessary course elements and adapt them to their own institutions and students. At the same time, the courses would help to build a community of biologists dedicated to creating new ways for students to learn biology. This community would facilitate the transfer of knowledge back to their home campuses and within the disciplinary societies of which they are members. They would remain linked to the summer institute community as members of a virtual network, at follow-up meetings, and via an Internet meeting place.
Potential Topics for Summer Institute Workshops Include the Following:
Development of modules and detailed guides to narrow topics suitable for incorporating into existing courses. Potential areas for modules are the integration of quantitative examples into biology courses, or the presentation of examples from recent biological research that rely upon basic principles of chemistry or physics.
Design of new courses that expose students to the excitement of modern biology such as seminars that include both student projects and presentations on faculty research.
Ideas for exposing large numbers of students to research (how to
think like a scientist): from laboratory courses to computer simulations to conceptual experiments.
Development of teaching materials for the sharing of innovative modules, courses, and conceptual experiments.
Approaches to interdisciplinary courses including team teaching and modules.
Approaches on how to incorporate recently emerging research about how people learn into designing curricula and evaluating student learning, such as that presented in How People Learn (NRC, 1999a) and Knowing What Students Know .
A successful institute would require a sincere partnership among a variety of intitutions and organizations. A collaboration between the NAS, NRC, HHMI, and NSF would help to anchor the effort in the research establishment. Cooperation with disciplinary societies in biology would also be pursued, and the institute would take advantage of work done by Project Kaleidoscope and groups funded by HHMI, as well as NSF and any other government agencies. The institute would provide a mechanism for building on those efforts and promote faculty development for professors at all stages in their careers. A successful collaboration would also expand the possibilities for further disseminating the work that comes out of the summer institute. For example, follow-up meetings could be held at the annual meetings of disciplinary societies to spread the word to faculty unable to attend the previous summer’s institute and to attract new participants for the next summer.
A series of planning meetings has already begun with representatives of the above groups. The current draft proposal calls for an initial workshop on designing interdisciplinary modules for existing courses and recommends an oversight committee to determine future workshops, select instructors, provide continuity, assess the impact of the workshops, and set overall policy and direction. One goal of the institute would be to bring research into the curriculum. Efforts would be made to attract research faculty to the institute in order to facilitate that goal. Preliminary information indicates that research-oriented faculty would participate in such workshops if it were to benefit them professionally and make it easier for them to fulfill their teaching responsibilities (Lillian Tong, Center for Biology Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, personal communication, April 2002). A summer institute that is well grounded in the scientific establishment would improve faculty contacts with respected
members of the research community and provide a mechanism for faculty to acquire the conceptual and practical skills necessary for quality teaching and learning.
Future biomedical researchers will require not only expertise in a specific biological system, but a conceptual understanding of the science of life and where a specific research topic fits into the overall picture. Connections between biology and the other scientific disciplines need to be developed and reinforced so that interdisciplinary thinking and work become second nature. Teaching and learning must be made more active to engage undergraduates, fully prepare them for graduate study, and give them an enduring sense of the power and beauty of creative inquiry. For these changes to happen colleges and universities must reexamine their current curricula. Administrators, funding agencies, and professional societies should all work to encourage the collaboration of faculty in different departments and the development of teaching materials that incorporate mathematics, physical science, or information science into a biology education. There must be rewards for faculty who create, assess, and sustain new educational programs. Faculty must feel encouraged to spend the time necessary to dedicate themselves to the task of understanding the integrative relationships of biology, mathematics, and the physical sciences, and how they can communicate these relationships to their students.