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Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology (1999)

Chapter: Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology

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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Visions For Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology

Vision 1

All postsecondary institutions would require all entering students to undertake college-level studies in SME&T. Entry into higher education would include assessment of students' understanding of these subjects that is based on the recommendations of national K12 standards.

If undergraduates are to view SME&T as an integral component of their education, the stage should be set long before they enter college. Ideally, their pre-college experience should have included both quality instruction in standards-based classrooms and a clear awareness that achievement in science, mathematics, and technology will be expected for admission to college. Once implemented, standards-based approaches to science and mathematics (and eventually technology) education should enable more students to reach these desired levels of achievement.

However, the committee recognizes that standards-based K-12 education in science, mathematics, and technology is not yet available to most students across the country. Many colleges and universities must now rely on the results of standardized examinations in these disciplines that do not necessarily emphasize the kinds of learning called for in national standards. Many postsecondary institutions also employ open admission policies. Such policies provide critical educational opportunities to many students who may not have had the academic experiences called for by national and state standards.

Moving K-12 SME&T education to a system that is more consonant with standards will likely require at least a decade. Nevertheless, change is occurring—albeit at different rates—in many parts of the country, and increasing numbers of students are likely to arrive at postsecondary institutions with greater exposure to science and mathematics standards. Thus, postsecondary institutions, their admissions offices, and faculty will need to monitor these trends in K-12 education with respect to admissions policies and the content and teaching of undergraduate courses. Admissions policies should be revisited regularly to account for changes taking place in the K-12 sector.

The committee also recognizes that while this vision and the accompanying implementation strategies are appropriate for the great majority of students in the nation's high schools, many other students will need creative alternative pathways to higher education. These students include those who have not performed well academically in high school but who have potential to succeed at college-level studies and those who did not receive the kind of education articulated in this report and who, as adults, are now seeking additional education.

Background

K-12 science and mathematics standards are being implemented across the country (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989; American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993; National Research Council, 1996b). Curriculum frameworks and learning results in science and mathematics are now legislatively

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

mandated by many states based on these national standards and benchmarks (Council of Chief State School Officers, 1997). These standards call for students increasingly to engage in inquiry-based, collaborative learning experiences that emphasize observation, collection, and analysis of data from student-oriented experiments. They also stress the importance of helping students learn about the relationships among the sciences and the relevance of science, mathematics, and technology to other realms of inquiry and practice.

At present, not all K-12 students receive an acceptable preparation in science and mathematics at the pre-college level. For example, in the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress examinations in mathematics, about one in three students in grades 4 and 8 and slightly less than one in three (31%) in grade 12 could not demonstrate even the most basic competency, and only 5% or less performed at the advanced level (e.g., Reese et al., 1997). In the most recent relevant international study, students from the United States demonstrated a steady decline from the 4th through the 12th grade in their mathematics and science performance. By 12th grade, American students ranked near the bottom in every category for knowledge of both general and advanced levels of science and mathematics in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) compared with their counterparts in countries around the world (U.S. Department of Education, 1998a, although see Rotberg, 19985).

Students who do arrive at college with what traditionally has been considered good preparation in science and mathematics (e.g., Advanced Placement course work) may not have actually developed a real conceptual understanding or the ability to solve problems, particularly in mathematics and the physical sciences, when compared with students in other countries with similar educational backgrounds (Juillerat et al., 1997; U.S. Department of Education, 1998a). Yet, at present, in the United States, students with Advanced Placement (AP) credits and high AP exam scores in hand can sometimes avoid any further science or mathematics classes at the postsecondary level that would lead them to think about SME&T subject matter more deeply.6

The clear national need for SME&T competency has helped drive the development and implementation of standards for K-12 mathematics and science (with technology standards anticipated in the spring of 1999). These standards present institutions of higher education with a great opportunity

  • to better define what they expect students to know and be able to do in SME&T as a requirement of admission; and to
  • institute their own innovative approaches to the teaching and learning of science, mathematics, and technology that complement and extend those called for in the standards.

The implications of changes in admissions policies include

  • assisting students and their parents to understand the value of SME&T competency for all students pursuing any career direction; and

5  

The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) represents the most extensive investigation of mathematics and science education ever conducted. Approximately 50 countries participated in this comparative survey of education focusing on nine- and thirteen-year-old students and students in their last year of secondary school. For the oldest students, TIMSS analyses considered three groups: a cross section of all students completing their last year of secondary education, i.e., a "literacy" sample; mathematics specialists, i.e., those students studying or having studied calculus; and science specialists, i.e., those students studying or having studied physics. (Modified from information available from the U.S. National Research Center for TIMSS. More information about this examination is available at <http://ustimss.msu.edu/>. There have been differences of opinion about the TIMSS assessments, particularly at the 12th grade level, where the results have been challenged based on perceived deficiencies in the collection and statistical analyses of the data (Rotberg, 1998). In a response to Rotberg, the methods employed in the TIMSS study have been defended by Schmidt and McKnight (1998).

6  

Advanced Placement (AP) credits and high AP examination scores can allow some students to complete or waive specific college graduation requirements, including in science and mathematics, at some postsecondary institutions.

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×
  • opportunities for faculty in the SME&T disciplines to work more closely with their admissions officers, college administrators, pre-college standardized testing agencies, and accrediting bodies to better define specific competencies.7

Strategies for Promoting and Implementing Vision 1

Executive and academic officers of postsecondary institutions can implement Vision 1 by

1. Asking academic SME&T departments and the Office of Admissions to establish appropriate institutional admissions standards for science and mathematics preparation.

The NCTM Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, AAAS Benchmarks for Science Literacy, the NRC National Science Education Standards, and individual state curriculum frameworks and learning results have established a "floor" for the level of knowledge and competency that should be mastered by students in science and mathematics before and during the high school years. Concomitantly, institutions of higher education should set higher standards for their entering students. These standards should be consistent with the program goals of the institution and institutional missions, as well as with state standards or benchmarks. A requirement or admissions preference for four years each of science and mathematics in may be appropriate for many postsecondary institutions and would send a powerful message to students, parents, and schools about the importance of these subjects. If colleges, universities, university systems, or organizations representing groups of universities decide to expect this type of higher level of background and competency from entering students, this expectation should be communicated early and clearly to high schools and to the public at-large.

Individual faculty and academic departments can implement Vision 1 by

1. Responding to both the current educational experiences and accomplishments of today's students and the changing expectations about what pre-college students should know and should be able to do in SME&T as a result of the increased use of national and statewide standards-based curricula and assessment tools.

As national and statewide standards in science and mathematics are articulated and implemented, students who enter the nation's colleges and universities will have very different knowledge bases and skills. Their expectations for continued study in SME&T subjects will be very different as well. For example, students are likely to expect class sizes that are much smaller than those of many undergraduate lecture sections. In addition, they might expect laboratory exercises to be integrated with the topics being learned in the lecture section. Large lecture sections for introductory courses that at best offer non-integrated lab experiences will not be familiar to these students. That the majority of the states have already adopted standards-based curricula and assessment tools should be taken as an early warning sign to individual faculty and departments that they need to prepare for the changes that standards will bring. Faculty and departments could prepare by reading and discussing the implications of national and relevant state standards for the structuring of courses, programs, and assessment of student learning and progress at the postsecondary level. The discussions could include experts in science and mathematics education research and practice, such as faculty from schools of education

2. Working with their institution's Office of Admissions to make clear to prospective students the departments' expectations for entry into SME&T programs and the institution's goal

7  

A number of state university systems already are working with the K-12 communities in their states to make their admission policies more consistent with alternative methods for assessing pre-college student performance (e.g., University of Wisconsin System, 1997; Oregon University System, 1998).

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

of providing SME&T education to all of its enrolled students.

The Office of Admissions should be equipped to send clear signals to prospective students about the kinds of preparation they should have in order to succeed in college-level SME&T courses and programs (e.g., President and Fellows of Harvard University, 1993).

Every effort should be made to encourage students to undertake a rigorous high school program of studies, including Advanced Placement (AP) courses where they are available. However, in working with the Office of Admissions, departments also should decide whether AP examinations actually measure the breadth and depth of knowledge and understanding about both the subject matter in question and the processes of science in general that students would otherwise acquire from taking introductory SME&T courses at the university level. For example, not all AP courses in the sciences offer the same level of laboratory experience for students. Students with the same scores on AP examinations may have had vastly different levels of exposure to scientific instrumentation or to approaches for solving problems in a laboratory setting.

If the mission of postsecondary education is to provide students with opportunities to experience and think about subject matter more deeply than they could in high school, allowing some students to complete or waive specific graduation requirements on the basis of high AP examination scores alone (compared, for example, with awarding them credit toward the total number of credits required for graduation) could be self-defeating to that mission.8 Requiring all students to complete introductory, interdisciplinary, or higher level courses in SME&T, regardless of their intended major, would enable some of the best students in the university to experience and appreciate the wealth and breadth of the sciences that they otherwise might have missed during their high school years. In collaboration with the Office of Admissions, departments should make clear how SME&T departments will regard students with high scores on these examinations, especially those who wish to use these scores to avoid taking college-level mathematics or science courses (also, see footnote 6, page 22). Detailed information about the kinds of experiences a student's AP course provided should be considered along with that student's score on an AP examination for placement in advanced courses or the awarding of academic credit.

In the near future, students who have had a standards-based education at the pre-college level, where they engaged in inquiry-based, collaborative learning experiences, will expect to receive more of the same in their undergraduate science and mathematics courses. Postsecondary institutions that take the lead in offering undergraduate SME&T curricula of high value to all of their students not only will have highly successful graduates but also will attract the highest quality incoming students.

The national need for SME&T competency is a great opportunity for institutions of higher education to institute meaningful, substantive change in the ways these subjects are taught. In addition, standards-based approaches to education also could allow postsecondary institutions to better define what they expect students to know and be able to do in SME&T as requirements for admission to higher education. However, if meaningful change is to occur in admissions policies, faculty in the SME&T disciplines at two- and four-year institutions will have to work more closely with each other and with their institutions' admissions officers and administrators as

8  

Even high scores on these examinations cannot necessarily be equated with this desired level of understanding. The recent Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) results for 12th graders suggest that, at least for mathematics and the physical sciences, many students in the United States who are doing Advanced Placement work in these subjects do not demonstrate real conceptual understanding or ability to solve problems within these disciplines compared to students in other countries with similar educational backgrounds (U.S. Department of Education, 1998a, although see Rotberg, 1998).

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

well as with pre-college standardized testing agencies and accrediting bodies to better define specific competencies.

See Appendix A for additional information about strategies for implementation of Vision 1 as discussed during the Committee on Undergraduate Science Education's "Year of Dialogue" regional symposia and topical forums.

Vision 2

SME&T would become an integral part of the curriculum for all undergraduate students through required introductory courses that engage all students in SME&T and their connections to society and the human condition.

Science is an integral part of our daily lives. It also is an historical and procedural foundation for human thinking about and understanding of the natural and engineered worlds. Therefore, colleges and universities should require all entering students, irrespective of their ultimate selection of a major, to undertake college-level studies in SME&T. Science majors would gain a focused, in-depth exposure to scientific principles, and those who wished to do so could build on their experiences to participate in faculty-supervised original research. They and all non-science students would also enroll in courses that focus on providing awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the natural and human-constructed worlds and that involve at least one laboratory experience. Introductory undergraduate curricula would incorporate physical, biological, and mathematical sciences, engineering, and technology in a manner that allowed all students to understand and appreciate the interrelationships among these disciplines in the context of human society. All of these courses would include topics that are both intellectually challenging and near the frontiers of inquiry. Wherever possible, these topics would engage students in discussing problems that students would find timely and important.

If this vision were to be realized, faculty would design and offer introductory science courses that met the needs of students with diverse educational backgrounds, experiences, interests, aspirations, and learning styles. These courses would be high-quality, laboratory-rich experiences that are meaningful and appropriate for all undergraduate students regardless of their intended majors. In addition to presenting content information in one or more areas of science, these courses would engage undergraduates in exploring the fundamental and unifying concepts and processes of science. They would be interdisciplinary in nature and focus, providing case studies that examine real problems and applications. They would emphasize the evolving processes of scientific thought and inquiry and would encourage and assist students to understand the need to be lifelong learners of SME&T. In short, these lower-division courses would be designed in content and subject matter approach in such a way as to encourage many students to continue to advance, rather than to end, their SME&T study; that is, the courses would serve as "pumps" to, rather than "filters" out of, higher levels of study in SME&T.

The creation and support of innovative courses also would include the building of a sophisticated communications infrastructure so that students, faculty, and local, state, national, and international communities could share ideas, strategies, and solutions for richer, more genuine educational experiences. Collectively, this communications network (constructed primarily on the Internet) would deepen the reform of undergraduate SME&T courses. An important contribution would be the effective use of information technologies in SME&T curricula.9

9  

The NRC's Committee on Information Technology, under the auspices of the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education, anticipates concluding by the spring of 1999 a study on effective, appropriate use of information technology to enhance SME&T courses. More information on this project can be found at the National Academy of Sciences' home page, <http://www.nas.edu>, under "Current Projects."

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

In addition, all programs in SME&T would be structured to allow as many undergraduate students as possible to engage in original, supervised research under the tutelage of a faculty or senior graduate student mentor. Undergraduates would become involved with as many phases of a research project as time permitted. These might include experimental design, searching the literature, performing the research using modern scientific instruments and techniques, analyzing and interpreting data, and preparing a report for publication or presentation at an institutional, regional, or national scientific meeting. SME&T majors would undertake such research for a minimum of one academic term, although research experiences that last for longer periods of time would be encouraged whenever possible. Other students, especially those who aspire to careers in teaching, would be encouraged to participate in original research, either through inquiry-based laboratory experiences associated with SME&T courses or through the kinds of supervised research opportunities available to SME&T majors. For research experiences lasting one semester or less, students might become involved with faculty- or student-originated projects in progress or with smaller projects designed by a faculty member and a group of students in a research-based course.

Background

Traditionally, the education of science majors has been hierarchical for several reasons. First, it has been thought that students in science must acquire a solid background in mathematics before approaching traditional introductory courses in physics and chemistry. Second, because many scientific disciplines have relied on other sciences as cognates (e.g., chemistry programs require their students also to study physics), the first order of business has been for students to gain prerequisite, college-level knowledge of these subjects, forcing delay in or eliminating consideration of topics related to the applications and appreciation of science in a broader context. Third, it has been assumed that students who major in a science will take a sequence of courses that can be spread over several years.

This vertical structuring of course content sometimes has had the effect of reducing introductory and intermediate courses to what students perceive to be litanies of facts. Conceptual knowledge, broader understanding of challenging subject matter, and more comprehensive approaches to teaching and learning, such as consideration of applications and intellectual and societal issues, too often has been minimized or postponed until the end of the course (e.g., Tobias, 1992). Also neglected at these levels of instruction have been the interrelationships among the sciences and the sciences' relationship to the humanities, social sciences, and the political, economic, and social concerns of society. Applications of scientific principles and integration of these concepts with those from other disciplines too often has been delayed until the junior or senior year (and sometimes not considered at all) because many faculty have believed that students should obtain a strong grounding in the basic principles first (Tobias, 1992).

In short, the traditional first-year exposure to a single discipline course has given students, especially those who do not go on in SME&T, an incomplete view of how the discipline applies to them, their physical or social environments, and their futures. As for declared and prospective science majors, although many take courses in more than one discipline at a time (taking biology and chemistry simultaneously, for example), explicit connections between even these disciplines are not always made. If such connections are made in the course of the undergraduate experience as presently constructed, it is later, in upper-division levels.

While sequencing of information and concepts makes sense, the committee suggests that the sequence should take place in an alternative fashion. Students should

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

obtain a strong but broad grounding in SME&T first. Then, if they so choose, students can become better versed in more specific and narrow concepts as they advance through their undergraduate careers. Although there have been numerous attempts to restructure undergraduate science education within disciplines (e.g., in the chemical sciences: American Chemical Society, 1990; in the earth sciences: Ireton et al., 1996; in engineering: National Research Council, 1995a; in the life sciences: Coalition for Education in the Life Sciences, 1992, and Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, 1993; in the mathematical sciences: National Research Council, 1991; in the physical sciences: Arons, 1990, Wilson, 1996, and Redish and Rigden, 1997), there have been few systemic efforts to restructure introductory courses for science majors, pre-service teachers, and students who will go on to other academic pursuits.

There are many reasons to reconstitute the courses under discussion so that they emphasize applications and connections with other areas of knowledge (National Research Council, 1982, 1996a; Cheney, 1989; American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1990; Tobias, 1990; Hazen and Trefil, 1991; National Science Foundation, 1992, 1996b; Alberts, 1994; Jones, 1994; Project Kaleidoscope, 1991, 1997; Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998). First, the proposed interdisciplinary courses provide integrated perspectives of SME&T and its relationship to the human condition in a way that invites student involvement and active participation. Second, such courses also serve as gateways to more discipline-based subjects by allowing students to understand the importance of studying what might otherwise seem to be disconnected and unrelated topics. When such interdisciplinary courses are reserved for upper-level science majors, non-science majors (including future teachers) cannot benefit from them. It is the latter group for which such approaches to teaching SME&T may be especially appropriate.

"My own experience leads me to conclude that It is pointless to define scientific literacy In terms of any particular body of scientific knowledge. I neither know nor understand most of present-day science. And yet, I am a dean of science at a private college, an active researcher, and the author of several mathematics textbooks and science books for the general reader. I read Journals, magazines, and books about science. Indeed, my life revolves around it. But scientific knowledge has been advancing at such a pace since the Second World War that I cannot hope to keep up. No one can . . . It is neither possible nor necessary for the general population to have detailed scientific knowledge across a range of disciplines. Instead, what is important is scientific awareness . . . When I say that all adults should be scientifically aware, I mean that they should base their opinions on fact and observable evidence rather than on prejudice or assumptions; be willing to change their opinions based on new evidence; understand cause-and-effect relationships; and appreciate how science Is done (in particular, understand the role played by observation and experiment in establishing a scientific conclusion and know what the terms "scientific theory" and "scientific fact" mean. My long experience as a college educator has shown me that, despite the near ubiquity of science-and-mathematics requirements for a bachelor's degree, not even all college graduates meet these standards for scientific awareness. (Nor do most college professors, for that matter.)"

Devlin, 1998, pg. B6

The committee appreciates that a considerable amount of time must be devoted to preparing for and teaching such courses. Time spent in courses discussing integrated topics will limit the amount of other subject matter that can be covered. However, the value of an integrated approach for most students over the long term is likely to outweigh these challenges. Furthermore, if students'

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

interest in SME&T is piqued by this approach, they may want to enroll in additional upper-level, discipline-based courses.

"Why are the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Ambassador to Kazakhastan (a country with concerns over earthquakes, oil reserves, and nuclear contamination), and the chairman of the House Science Committee not scientists? Why are we not training scientists for the leadership positions that so profoundly affect our future? It starts with universities, where success has historically been achieved through specialization in narrow subdisciplines. Courses for non-majors are frequently viewed as distractions, and students who depart the so-called nerd herd to pursue careers in business or policymaking are frowned upon. Thus begins the vicious cycle: Bright students do not see science as a way to reach positions of leadership, and science suffers because those in leadership positions have little experience with science . . . Our long-term future depends on citizens understanding and appreciating the role of science in our society. No panel report, no unambiguous example, and no well-connected lobbyist can make these arguments for us. In the next generation, we will need not only scientists who are experts In subspecialties, but also those with a broad understanding of science and a basic literacy in economics, international affairs, and policymaking. In the end, our greatest threat may not be the scientific illiteracy of the public, but the political illiteracy of scientists."

van der Vink, 1997

The committee again emphasizes that it is impossible for any student to become truly "literate" in SME&T if "literacy" is equated with "content" in one or more disciplines. Postsecondary SME&T programs can, however, provide all students who enroll in these courses with firm foundations in the concepts and methods of basic science and technology, mathematical reasoning, the connections among these fields and methods of inquiry, and the relationship of these fields to other disciplines and to addressing societal concerns.

Upper-division interdisciplinary courses for science majors typically are taught by faculty colleagues within closely related disciplines to students who have majored in those same disciplines. In contrast, at the introductory level, faculty from different departments may not have the same level of motivation to work together coordinating and integrating SME&T courses (Tobias, 1992; Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998). At present, there are few truly interdisciplinary courses offered at the introductory level. Reasons for this include lack of course ownership by any one department or discipline or a dearth of commitment by faculty or administrators to the course or program. Students who have not enrolled previously in such courses might be reluctant to take what they perceive to be a non-traditional approach to the subject matter at hand, and departments may interpret this reluctance as lack of interest. Faculty rarely can see a direct relationship of such courses to their individual research interests and may receive few incentives from the institution's system of rewards and recognition for devoting the time, retraining, and effort required to develop high-quality interdisciplinary courses. This problem is exacerbated when the courses are intended primarily for students who will not pursue advanced study in the faculty's own department or programs. If individual faculty or departments see little reason to expend the effort and resources to make innovative, relevant courses available, students who are not science majors can hardly be expected to be enthusiastic about the more traditional courses that are available to them. Non-science majors who exhibit a lack of interest in courses designed primarily for science majors may reinforce faculty or departmental resistance to making the effort to change and to offer more innovative introductory courses.

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

Interest in offering interdisciplinary courses at both the introductory and more advanced undergraduate levels has risen in recent years. Many workshops have been sponsored by Project Kaleidoscope to explore such diverse topics as ''Blueprints for Reform in Undergraduate Neuroscience," "Connecting Within and Beyond the Sciences," and "Biochemistry: Bio or Chemistry?" (more information about these and other workshops is available at Project Kaleidoscope's website at <http://www.pkal.org>). In addition, "Interdisciplinary Learning Communities on Puget Sound" is organized to develop faculty skills in leading interdisciplinary programs. It will culminate in 1999 with a public symposium to present and discuss participants' work on curriculum and collaborative research. (More information is available at The Evergreen State College's Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education website at <http://192.211.16.13/ katlinks/washcntr/home.html>.)

The following are examples of interdisciplinary courses for students, although it should be noted that few course offerings of this type have been evaluated fully for efficacy: "Science and Society," offered at the University of California, Davis (<http://www.ucdavis.edu>); "Connecting the Sciences," offered at Nassau Community College (<http://www.sunynassau.edu/>); "The Explanatory Power of Science," offered at the University of Texas at El Paso (<http://www.utep.edu>); "Quantitative Perspectives on Energy and the Environment," offered at the University of Pennsylvania (<http://www.upenn.edu>); and "The Science and Technology of Everyday Life," offered at Hope College (<http://www.hope.edu>). One course-based textbook is Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy (Hazen and Trefil, 1991), which encourages interdisciplinary study at the undergraduate level for non-majors by building connections between disciplines.

"As research is Increasingly interdisciplinary, undergraduate education should also be cast In interdisciplinary formats. Departmental confines and reward structures have discouraged young faculty interested in interdisciplinary teaching from engaging in it. But because all work will require mental flexibility, students need to view their studies through many lenses. Many students come to the university with some introduction to interdisciplinary learning from high school and from use of computers. Once in college, they should find it possible to create individual majors or minors without undue difficulty. Understanding the close relationship between research and classroom learning, universities must seriously focus on ways to create interdisciplinarity in undergraduate learning."

Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998, pg. 23



"Every citizen ought to be technologically literate. This includes not only scientific and mathematical literacy but also understanding the economic, social, and political roles that technology plays in society and the process by which technology is created . . . To be technologically literate, schoolchildren need to understand both the process and the products of engineering. They should be able to use basic mathematics and science skills to design solutions to problems. They also should be familiar with the methods that engineers use to evaluate design alternatives in search of the one that best satisfies constraints related to cost, functionality, safety, reliability, manufacturability, ergonomics, and environmental impact . . . People rely on technology for transportation, communication, medical care, entertainment, the food they eat, the clothing they wear, the buildings they use, and the work they do. Ignorance about such a fundamental feature of modern life is not healthy for individuals or for societies."

Wulf, 1998

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

Strategies for Promoting and Implementing Vision 2

Executive and academic officers of postsecondary institutions can implement Vision 2 by

1. At institutions with active research programs, convening local blue-ribbon panels of faculty who are recognized for their contributions to both research and teaching to report on what is needed to offer a cutting-edge SME&T curriculum for undergraduates on their campuses consistent with their institutions' mission.

The panel's report should provide a series of concrete short-term and long-term goals for the institution to pursue. Such discussions might include learning outcomes expected from introductory SME&T courses regardless of the course in which a student enrolls; greater opportunities for students to undertake original or independent research in teaching laboratories or in conjunction with faculty research projects; ways to enhance teacher preparation in mathematics, science, and technology; and the influence of K-12 standards-based curricula on undergraduate education in SME&T. Broader campus discussion about implementation, led by members of the panel and one or more high-ranking academic administrative officers, should follow release of the report.

2. Supporting the inclusion of core SME&T requirements and core course offerings that include at least one or preferably more laboratory experiences at the undergraduate level for all students and an option for independent research for all science majors.

All colleges and universities should critically evaluate their core SME&T requirements for undergraduate degrees and their core course offerings in these subjects. Departments other than those offering these courses should participate. The subjects of the evaluation should be the course content of each course and the development, integration, and financing of the total curriculum. Faculty (and departments) should be given financial and other incentives to offer integrated, interdisciplinary courses at the introductory level and/or to coordinate the content and sequence of science courses with other introductory courses that beginning students are likely to take. For example, many first-year premedical students are likely to enroll simultaneously in introductory biology and chemistry. Instructors could present shared themes in these courses (e.g., properties and use of energy in chemical and biological systems) in a coordinated fashion and could refer to more specific material being covered in the other course. Beginning students would then have an early opportunity to see important connections usually not made until later in their undergraduate years. Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and selected undergraduates could participate in teaching (especially in laboratories) and in the development and assessment of such courses, thus helping faculty members make the most effective use of their resources. By seeking and using input from a diverse set of students (both undergraduates and graduates), faculty also would be able to modify more regularly the material presented and the methods of presentation. The adoption of new laboratory courses, which are critical for the teaching of science as an active way of learning, needs serious resource commitments from postsecondary institutions.

3. Encouraging individual faculty to learn to develop new and innovative courses and make existing courses more effective by promoting an institutional culture that rewards this participation and that provides technical support.

Most faculty members have been educated in traditional disciplines, and their teaching careers are usually traditional as well. To encourage these faculty to learn new and effective approaches to teaching and to develop new courses or curricula based on this knowledge, administrators should provide faculty with the resources required for consultation with colleagues and experts

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

across campus and at other institutions. Faculty who then want to develop courses that are appropriate for all students should receive additional support.

Academic officers might make funds available directly to faculty who submit brief proposals to develop and teach high-quality, laboratory-rich interdisciplinary courses at the introductory level. Centralizing funds within the dean's office for such purposes also sends a powerful message about the need for faculty from different departments and disciplines to work together to procure these resources.

Deans and provosts also should tangibly recognize faculty members who develop and teach effective and innovative courses. Academic officers who oversee personnel decisions should adopt policies that show faculty that engaging students in truly innovative courses will be considered favorably in matters of tenure, promotion, and salary determinations. Such policies would encourage pre-tenured faculty to use innovative design and assessment of introductory courses as evidence of their productivity as teacher-scholars.

4. Providing incentives for individual faculty and departments in SME&T, the humanities, and the social sciences to work together to develop introductory interdisciplinary courses that are meaningful for all students, including both those who are and who are not likely to major in the faculty members' disciplines.

These courses might deal with broad issues, such as the environment, energy, or the impact of some aspect of SME&T on society. In addition to providing a solid grounding in some discrete body of scientific knowledge and content (to be determined by the course instructors), introductory courses also should impart deeper understanding of the processes and analytical tools of science and of the relationship of science to environmental, societal, or personal issues that students are likely to encounter (see examples beginning on page 33). To produce such courses, SME&T faculty from different disciplines should be encouraged to work together and with colleagues in the humanities and social sciences to develop courses that provide students with broader exposure to and perspectives of the relationships among these areas of knowledge. Students should be encouraged (or even required) to enroll in one or more of these introductory interdisciplinary courses early in their undergraduate experience.

". . . It is not enough that individual faculty members in isolated ways advance student learning. Many . . . have suggested that what we need is not more innovation but more implementation, so that local improvements are both spread throughout the institution and made sustainable over time. Otherwise, gains will be transitory and depend on the comings and goings of individual faculty and administrators."

National Science Foundation (1996b), pg. 56

5. Encouraging senior SME&T faculty who have been recognized for teaching excellence and innovation to participate in lower-division course offerings and in curriculum planning.

Too often the faculty members with the most experience and recognition as teacher-scholars instruct graduate students or advanced undergraduate students (Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998). Thus, the vast majority of students who do not go on to upper-division courses or research in SME&T cannot benefit from interacting closely with and learning from the people who may be able to most inspire and guide their thinking in these disciplines. As the Boyer Commission points out, interactions between experienced teacher-scholars and bright, energetic students can catalyze and energize the thinking of both. Even if such teaching responsibilities do not become a requirement, senior faculty who are recognized for their teaching skills and the ability

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

to challenge students' thinking—but who do not currently work with undergraduates in introductory and gateway courses—could be provided with appropriate incentives to do so. Senior faculty also could serve as role models to the more junior faculty who may be involved in the teaching of these courses.

". . . In reality, however, the undergraduate In our time may have little or no direct contact with established scholar-teachers. Instruction very often comes through the scholar's apprentice, the graduate student; the academic luminary featured In admissions bulletins appears rarely if at all in undergraduate classes, and then too often as the lecturer addressing hundreds of students at once. The context is intimidating for many, and they turn away in discouragement. Recognizing that discouragement, some research universities have responded by instituting smaller classes (though usually only for majors) conducted by senior faculty, or undergraduate seminars in which senior students are challenged to produce their own research."

Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998, pg. 16

6. Establishing reward incentives for faculty and departments to contribute to the sustained availability of interdepartmental, integrative courses and excellence in teaching.

Individual faculty or single departments may develop innovative courses and programs, but such initiatives most likely will be sustained if a critical mass of faculty members and departments is involved. When other faculty not involved in the original innovation are able to reap the benefits of such change, innovation can be sustained. When these innovations become ingrained in the fabric of the curriculum, disciplinary departments will have incentives to participate and even expand innovation (see also Discussion and Recommendations for Vision 4).

Deans may want to provide financial and other resources and incentives to departments and faculty so that the costs of developing and maintaining exemplary introductory courses, including committed personnel, are not borne directly by the departments that are the principal participants. Such incentives could include supplementary budgets to individual departments for multi-disciplinary courses that involve more than one science department. Budgets could take into account student enrollments.

7. Providing avenues for students, alumni, professional advisory groups, and the community to participate in the development of new, interdisciplinary courses.

Too often, a key ingredient missing from course development and curriculum design is input from the students about their interests and needs (Benjamin and Carroll, 1993; Oblinger, 1995). It would be valuable if administrative staff, with the help of faculty, asked incoming and upper-division students to articulate the kinds of topics that should be addressed in these introductory courses. Alumni, local businesses, industries, and not-for-profit organizations also could be asked to provide feedback and comments. College committees that consider proposals and distribute funds for course development could ask current students and alumni who work in a variety of fields to serve as reviewers of these proposals. Involvement by different segments of the community, especially by those who would benefit directly, could enable faculty to develop and implement such courses more efficiently. The community approach also could result in the use of many interesting, timely, and relevant topics for these courses that are of particular appeal to a broad range of students.

8. Encouraging faculty to interact with partners both across campus and at other nearby two- and four-year institutions to share effective teaching practices and course and curricular innovations.

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

Such dissemination could be undertaken through the campus Teaching and Learning Center, in periodic staff newsletters, or by publishing the proposals and final reports from faculty who receive funds for course improvements and innovations. Honorary awards could be established for effective teaching that would require recipients to discuss their innovations with the larger campus community.

9. Including the space needs of lower-division teaching in active learning environments and of undergraduate research participation when planning for capital improvement projects and allocating resources.

Many colleges and universities envision in traditional ways the space and time required for introductory and lower-division courses. For example, traditional classrooms or large lecture halls are the typical settings. Laboratory sections are taught in three- or four-hour blocks of time. This view of introductory courses makes designing facilities and allocating resources for such courses a relatively straightforward exercise.

In contrast, active learning environments can place new demands on the design and use of facilities and equipment and the allocation of resources: simply stated, the traditional may not work. In the traditional classroom space, for example, immovable chairs and other furniture may discourage the kinds of discussion and interactions among students and faculty that encourage active teaching and learning. In traditional teaching laboratories, peninsula benches with utility conduits running down the center of the bench may serve as physical and psychological barriers to students who need to work in teams and share data or instrumentation.

If undergraduates are to study and experience SME&T as if they were practicing scientists and engineers, recognition also is needed of the fact that scientists and engineers typically do not conduct and complete their research projects in specific blocks of time. Students who are actively engaged in inquiry-based projects may need to be in the laboratory at times other than when their laboratory sections are scheduled. In these cases, additional or reallocated resources will be needed to cover the costs of laboratory supervision and security during evenings and weekends. If students in these courses must rely on information technology to complete their work, then assistance must be easily accessible for the technical problems that invariably arise.

Narum (1995) discusses planning new or renovating existing facilities to accommodate such changes in curriculum and work habits of students. Additional consideration of this issue also can be found under Vision 5 in this report beginning on page 48.

Individual faculty and academic departments can implement Vision 2 by

1. Working with colleagues who teach introductory interdisciplinary courses to delineate carefully fundamental concepts about the natural and human-constructed world to which students should be exposed.

Regardless of the theme or topic of the course, the common themes might include (e.g., see Moore, 1995):

  •   

    The scientific and engineering method: What are the processes that scientists use to investigate a problem? What kinds of questions do scientists and engineers ask when trying to solve problems? How are these approaches similar to and different from each other? What are hypotheses? Theories? Controls? Variables? How do these terms, as used by scientists, mathematicians, and engineers differ from their colloquial usage?

  •   

    Evidence and proof: Why are some theories considered by most scientists as equivalent to fact (e.g., evolution) when they are so hotly disputed outside of science? What kind of evidence is required for scientists to accept a scientific theory? How are alternative or competing theories evaluated? What are the roles of intuition and the "discovery" approach in moving

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×
  • science and technology forward? Do scientists always display objectivity when addressing scientific questions or issues?
  •   

    Science as a "way of knowing" and the limits to such knowledge: How are the approaches that scientists employ to view and understand the universe similar to, and different from, the approaches taken by scholars in other disciplines outside of the natural sciences? What kinds of questions can be answered by the scientific and engineering methods, and what kinds of questions lie outside of these realms of knowledge? How does one distinguish between science and pseudoscience? Why are scientists often unable to provide definitive answers to questions they investigate? What are risk and probability, and what roles do they play when one is trying to provide scientific answers to questions? What is the difference between correlation and causation?

  •   

    The relationships among basic science, applied science, and technology: What are the realms and limits of basic science, applied science, and technology? How are basic science, applied science, and technology related to and dependent upon one other (e.g., Hurd, 1994)? In what ways are the questions that engineers ask similar to and different from those asked by natural scientists? How is scientific research conducted and supported in the United States?

  •   

    The connections between the natural and mathematical sciences: In what ways are mathematical and statistical concepts used by scientists to develop and test hypotheses, to analyze data, to reach conclusions, and to make further predictions? How have discoveries in mathematics led to new insights in science (e.g., fractal geometry, chaos theory, game theory) and technology? How can non-scientist citizens use these methods to evaluate scientific issues of importance to them and their communities?

  •   

    The relationship, relevance, and importance of science to other fields of knowledge and to society: How have science and technology influenced the history and social structure of human society? How have other intellectual disciplines (e.g., philosophy) and the social milieu in which science and technology are conducted influenced the kinds of scientific and engineering questions asked and the type of research undertaken?

  •   

    Scientific conduct and ethics: Are there any kinds of experiments that should not be performed or inventions that should not be produced? Who should decide? How have different branches of the natural sciences and engineering, individually and collectively, contributed to general knowledge and policy decisions related to personal and community health, industrial practices, and other societal issues? How has society affected the conduct and progress of science and technology?

2. Devising a plan for involving all undergraduates in at least one laboratory experience, including—for all interested SME&T majors—an experience in supervised original research, on- or off-campus, for at least one academic term.

Learning about SME&T in classrooms, especially in large lecture sections, can be an abstract and passive experience for many students. In contrast, students often report that SME&T comes alive for them when they are given the opportunity to work as scientists and engineers do, posing original questions, designing ways to answer those questions, and analyzing whether their original hypotheses are valid (McNeal and D'Avanzo, 1997).

Unfortunately, this discovery approach to learning through research is unavailable to vast numbers of undergraduates. Although comprehensive data are not available, anecdotal information indicates a reverse trend: a reduction in the number and even elimination of labs offered with lower-division courses because of fiscal constraints (Joan Prival,

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

National Science Foundation, personal communication). This is true even for some of the nation's research-intensive universities (Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998).

In institutions where laboratory experiences are required for all undergraduates, these experiences may only involve following rote procedures to address predetermined questions and to arrive at conclusions that are widely known and available through textbooks or other sources. Problems and issues that scientists and engineers face everyday, such as designing adequate controls, accounting for interacting variables, replicating findings, and dealing with the uncertainty of statistical analysis of data, often are not presented to students in introductory or lower-division SME&T courses. Students who do not continue their SME&T studies stand a good chance never to appreciate fully how scientific investigations are conducted or how the concepts and facts that they have studied were generated. Every undergraduate should experience the logic, joy, and frustration of asking original questions and carrying out a plan to address them.

3. Emphasizing the development of introductory SME&T courses that include applications and hands-on learning experiences.

Currently, many SME&T curricula require students to learn much of the fundamentals before being allowed to apply them. This approach has been documented as driving even strong students away from further studies in SME&T (Stalheim-Smith and Scharmann, 1994; Seymour and Hewitt, 1997). A powerful alternative is introductory SME&T courses that allow students to share in the excitement of applying the fundamentals of one or more of the scientific disciplines to a problem or issue. For example, there are freshman year design courses that allow students to "do" engineering by working in teams on real projects (e.g., National Research Council, 1995a; Drexel University's Engineering Curriculum; Carnegie Mellon University's undergraduate program in engineering; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Studio Physics Program; and Dickinson College's Project Physics Program10—as well as courses found in McNeal and D'Avanzo, 1997).

Further, the engineering community has recognized the value of this alternative approach. Indeed, beginning in the Year 2000, all engineering programs will be evaluated for accreditation using new outcomes-based standards developed by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). These standards call for accreditation based in part on evaluations of student progress; program educational objectives, outcomes, and assessments; facilities; and institutional support.11

4. Sharing course syllabi, examinations, assignments, and laboratory experiments and expectations, successes, and failures with departmental colleagues, other faculty members, and academic advisors whose students are taking innovative introductory SME&T courses.

Time could be set aside at department meetings for discussion of an innovative or proven course activity (with the understanding that sharing such information could be helpful, including for avoiding mistakes). Colleagues from other departments could be invited as well but primarily to discuss ways to provide better integration and connections in subject matter across disciplines. For example, faculty who teach the introductory courses in biology, physics, and chemistry might agree not only to present a topic that is common to all three subjects (e.g., aspects of energy) at a prearranged time during the

10  

More information about Drexel University's Engineering Curriculum is available at <http://wwwtdec.coe.drexel.edu/m TDEC/Title.html>

More information about Carnegie Mellon University's undergraduate engineering program is available at <http://www.cit. cmu.edu/undergrad/undergrad.html>

More information about Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Studio Physics Program is available at <http://www.rpi.edu/dept/phys/ education.html>

More information about Dickinson College's Project Physics Program is available at <http://Physics.Dickinson.edu/>

11  

Additional information about these new standards is available at <http://www.abet.org/eac/eac2000.htm>

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

semester but also to make specific reference at that time in each course about how the topic is relevant to the other disciplines.

5. Adopting formal mechanisms whereby faculty in different departments who teach similar concepts can share information about what is being learned in innovative courses, including the use of effective techniques and materials.

One such mechanism would arise naturally if faculty and departments worked together to develop and teach courses (especially those with a multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary focus). In such a case, individual faculty could then rotate responsibilities for teaching among course developers and colleagues with similar interests. This also would permit courses similar in content but featuring different emphases to be offered regularly to students without burdening one department with the sole responsibility for planning and teaching these courses. For example, an introductory interdisciplinary course that focused on scientific perspectives of energy could rotate among departments of physics, chemistry, geology, and biology. Each department could emphasize its own discipline while offering students a broad perspective. Under such a scenario, faculty in each department would be expected to participate in the course, yet no individual faculty member and no one department would need to take full-time responsibility for it.

6. Encouraging faculty who were not original designers of an innovation to participate in the resulting courses without having to take full responsibility for teaching or maintaining them.

In original research, ideas and innovations are discussed and evaluated and then widely disseminated, but this is not often the case in education. Rather, new ideas and products in education are usually worked on by individual instructors behind office and classroom doors (e.g., Shulman, 1993). Consequently, the longevity of many truly innovative courses often is the length of time their creators teach them. Because few formal or widely recognized mechanisms currently exist for distributing what the creator has learned and produced,12 colleagues across campus or even down the hall in the same department may be completely unaware of innovations that could inform their own teaching or serve as the basis for collaboration.

A recent study of college and university departments demonstrated that such innovation sharing could heighten efficacy. In the study, the departments recognized as most highly effective were those where faculty regularly shared knowledge and insights about courses, student learning, and pedagogy and considered such activities to be an integral component of their mission (e.g., National Research Council, 1991; Wergin, 1994).

7. Discussing curricular as well as non-curricular issues (e.g., use and sharing of facilities and equipment) with everyone involved with an interdisciplinary course.

Interdisciplinary courses often are taught with colleagues who may have very different ideas about course objectives, outcomes, content, and perspective. Also, facilities and instrumentation may be needed for such courses that lie outside of an individual faculty member's purview or control. Discussion among all of the stakeholders for the intended course is necessary, therefore. Such discussion can be expected to focus on tools, space requirements, and "territorial barriers," but it should also involve the defining of values,

12  

Some organizations concerned with improving undergraduate SME&T have begun to make such materials available via the Internet. For example, Project Kaleidoscope <http:/www.pkal.org>, Howard Hughes Medical Institute <http://www.hhmi.org>, National Engineering Education Delivery System (NEEDS) <http://fisc.berkeley.edu:7521/articles/ims-seminar-980817/BrandonMuramatsu/sld003.htm>, the Coalition for Education in the Life Sciences <http://www.wisc.edu/cels>, and others all have established databases that offer users information about courses, teaching techniques, and other pedagogical issues. The National Science Foundation also is beginning to assess whether it should support a digital National Library for undergraduate SME&T education that would offer users an interactive means for locating vast sources of information, published literature, and other materials from all realms of the sciences, mathematics, engineering, and technology (National Research Council, 1998a; see also <http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/enter2.cgi?ED.html>).

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

content, and pedagogy (see also additional discussion of this topic in Vision 3, Strategy 3, beginning on page 39). It should include recognition that many "best practices" in education are not limited by lack of technology or resources and, if necessary, faculty should be encouraged to begin with "pencil-and-paper" innovations and then move to more resource intensive methods where warranted.

8. Offering local workshops, possibly seeking the advice of outside experts from other two- and four-year institutions, on innovations that foster undergraduate learning.

Departments need not depend solely on their own resources to keep abreast of educational innovations for undergraduates. Outside speakers could be invited to give departmental, divisional, and institution-wide lectures, demonstrations, or seminars. Colleagues from other departments or institutions with expertise in pedagogy and learning could be invited to give presentations during department meetings on topics of interest. Educational research as well as innovative course design could be the subjects addressed. At departmental research seminars and colloquia, the speaker's teaching responsibilities and experience could be emphasized during introductions.

See Appendix A for additional information about and strategies for implementation of Vision 2 as discussed during the Committee on Undergraduate Science Education's "Year of Dialogue" regional symposia and topical forums.

Vision 3

All colleges and universities would continually and systematically evaluate the efficacy of courses in SME&T.

Faculty would continually evaluate their courses for efficacy in promoting student learning. Such evaluations would reflect in part the emphases outlined for Vision 2. Thus, in addition to mastery of the specific subject matter taught in a course, success also would be defined and measured by the degree of understanding and appreciation gained by students of both general scientific concepts and of the scientific approach to understanding natural processes. Evaluations would include measurements of learning at several levels: in the courses themselves, in subsequent SME&T courses, and, ultimately, in career and life. The results of such evaluations would be used continually to produce improvements in courses for students both inside and outside of the major, to assist in the professional development of individual faculty, and to allow departments continually to assess and improve their curricular offerings.

Background

Some innovations in undergraduate SME&T education have been spurred by recent calls for reform. However, it is not yet clear whether these innovations have made any difference in the number and types of students who enroll and are retained in SME&T courses and programs or in levels of scientific literacy. There simply has been too little effort to measure objectively, using established experimental protocols and statistical tools, changes in learning outcomes for students. Just as scholars are expected to incorporate into their research experimental designs that can be statistically analyzed, so too planning for courses should include ways to measure efficacy along pre-established parameters.

Similarly, just as the results of SME&T research are published and widely disseminated, so too should be examples of particularly effective SME&T courses, course or laboratory modules, and experiments on the improvement of teaching and learning. Means of dissemination should include presentations at professional meetings and publication in refereed journals. In the future,

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

additional avenues for disseminating such work may become available through digital libraries that are established for this purpose (e.g., National Research Council, 1998a).

In addition to evaluations of courses or course materials, there should be an evaluation of faculty members' teaching abilities. Students, faculty peers, and supervisors could conduct such evaluations. Although student and faculty peer evaluations are common, many scholars and organizations are working to resolve the outstanding issues, including problems of subjectivity that could be inherent in these instruments (e.g., Centra et al., 1987; Hutchings, 1996; England et al., 1996; Glassick et al., 1997; Williams and Ceci, 1997). Several alternative assessment and evaluation tools and techniques are also being tested at increasing numbers of postsecondary institutions (Edgerton et al, 1991; Anderson, 1993; Diamond and Adam, 1993), and at least one website has been established by the National Institute for Science Education at the University of Wisconsin (NISE) to provide field-tested learning assessment guides (see <http://newtraditions.chem. wisc.edu/FLAG/nt-flag.htm>).

If systemic improvements are to be made in undergraduate SME&T education, ways must be found to articulate what those improvements should be and to observe, record, and analyze whether they have actually taken place. Information about effective courses should be shared with the SME&T community, and effective teaching should be recognized and rewarded in personnel decisions.

Strategies for Promoting and Implementing Vision 3

Executive and academic officers of postsecondary institutions can implement Vision 3 by

1. Benchmarking undergraduate programs within their institutions against the best practices of peer institutions.

Comparing the quality and success of teaching across different departments within an institution and even across courses in a department has been problematic in higher education. Attempting to undertake such comparisons across institutions would seem nearly impossible. However, regional or statewide consortia of similar types of colleges and universities could enable departments and programs at specific postsecondary institutions to compare their educational objectives and their courses and programs with others in the state or region. Nationally, higher education organizations that represent particular types of postsecondary institutions (e.g., research universities, two-year colleges) could establish task forces to gather and disseminate information about innovative and demonstrably effective practices at member institutions.13 For example, these organizations could facilitate dissemination of information about courses and programs as well as mechanisms employed by individual institutions to evaluate those courses and programs via the Internet. This type of effort could have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts on students and faculty in the nation's colleges and universities.

2. Requiring that any proposal submitted to the institution that seeks funds to create new courses, to modify existing courses, or to explore some alternative approach to teaching SME&T courses contain information about how the course or teaching practice will be evaluated for effectiveness.

By requiring a detailed plan for evaluating the efficacy of a research project, granting agencies compel applicants to think seriously about outcomes of their projects beyond the data that are generated and analyzed. Designing new courses, modifying existing courses, or embarking on an alternative path

13  

For example, in 1998, the Presidents of the Association of American Universities (AAU) commissioned a task force to examine current practices among member institutions and to offer recommendations for improving undergraduate education at these institutions with regard to admissions policies, introductory courses, and teacher preparation.

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

to teaching similarly should be viewed by both applicant faculty and awarding institutions as serious scholarly activities worthy of serious evaluation (Boyer, 1990; Glassick et al., 1997). Applications should contain evaluation plans as an integral component of the project to be funded.

3. Encouraging participation in departmental assessments as a significant component of individual faculty evaluations for promotion, tenure, and post-tenure review.

Departments in which faculty play an active role in collectively planning their course offerings and curriculum, in discussing teaching and learning issues, and in continually monitoring and evaluating their programs are viewed both by students and institutional colleagues as being strong and vital (Massy et al., 1994; Wergin, 1994; Hutchings, 1996). If faculty are to embrace the evaluation and ongoing quality of a department's educational programs as fundamental components of their professional responsibilities, the institution and its leaders should clearly communicate their expectations to all continuing faculty members. Faculty participation in the monitoring and improvement of departmental offerings also should be considered favorably in personnel decisions and appropriately rewarded.

Individual faculty and academic departments can implement Vision 3 by

1. Setting clear learning goals for individual courses and for the department's curriculum in general, especially for introductory and general education courses that the department oversees.

These goals should articulate learning outcomes for students (what students know, understand, and are able to do). Learning outcomes also might include how the course or curriculum has been structured to meet the needs of students with diverse backgrounds and interests (e.g., students planning to major in the discipline, students taking these courses as requirements for other majors and programs, and students seeking to become teachers). In addition, courses might be assessed for evidence of how well they serve as gateways to higher level study.

Finally, because there may be high attrition in SME&T courses by motivated and capable students (e.g., Seymour and Hewitt, 1997), departments and institutions should continually monitor and access dropout and failure rates in these courses, especially at the introductory level. If these rates are found to be excessive, departments should investigate the cause or causes and work to correct the problem.

2. Including both undergraduate and graduate student representatives in departmental discussions about individual courses and/or curricular issues.

Students who are asked to assume such responsibilities usually take them seriously and often provide insights and ''reality checks" to both faculty and departments about individual courses and/or curricula.

3. Involving departmental colleagues in substantive, regular evaluation of teaching and curriculum.

While there are many possible avenues for evaluation, it is important for department members to commit to working with each other to improve teaching and learning and to introduce continual innovation into the curriculum. This may require consideration of the use of innovative evaluation instruments. In addition to measuring specific content knowledge, innovative evaluation instruments should measure such skills as applying course content to solving problems, analyzing data, developing hypotheses, and the other types of skills and knowledge that are described on pages 33 through 34.

4. Providing active learning environments for all students, even in large section, lecture-dominated courses.

SME&T faculty and departments should place greater emphasis in their courses on

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

inquiry-based projects through laboratory and field experiences and small discussion groups. Sources of relevant information include scholarly journals that feature innovative, effective teaching in SME&T (e.g., various disciplinary journals and journals such as the Journal of College Science Teaching). In addition, several recent publications (and at least one website) offer specific suggestions for implementing such alternative methods for undergraduate teaching as well as examples of successful programs. Four of these recently available resources are described below:

  •   

    Science Teaching Reconsidered: A Handbook (National Research Council, 1997a14), authored by the Committee on Undergraduate Science Education, provides many suggestions for improving the teaching of science for undergraduates who are and are not majoring in science. It draws on the results of education research and the experiences of successful science faculty members. Practical guidelines for experimenting with alternative pedagogies and a long list of references for further study are provided.

  •   

    Handbook on Teaching Undergraduate Science Courses: A Survival Training Manual (Uno, 199715) focuses on problems that new faculty, especially those in the biological sciences, might face during their first years as faculty members. Many ideas about how to become an effective and engaging teacher who can offer courses that encourage students to "learn about, participate, and appreciate science and biology" (p. 1) are offered. The handbook also serves to introduce new science faculty to educational research and provides critical references.

  •   

    Student-Active Science: Models of Innovation in College Science Teaching (McNeal and D'Avanzo, 1997) is the result a National Science Foundation-sponsored conference held in 1996 entitled "Inquiry Approaches to Science Teaching." Through a series of papers, Student-Active Science provides a history of the current emphasis on "hands-on active education." Case studies are used to describe how a variety of postsecondary institutions have revised their curricula in the life sciences, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Student-Active Science also describes different approaches to interdisciplinary courses and programs and ways to assess and evaluate innovations.

  •   

    Peer Instruction: A User's Manual (Mazur, 1997). Harvard University physics professor Eric Mazur's manual provides details of implementing "peer instruction" in large lectures. Essentially, within a lecture-based course, physics concepts are divided into discrete, short lectures. After each short lecture, students discuss the concept involved with their neighbors to enable them to explain and comprehend the concept more fully. Incorporating this style into traditional lectures requires little effort and no additional funds, according to Mazur.16

  •   

    In addition, the National Institute for Science Education (NISE) has established a worldwide website that focuses on collaborative learning (<http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/nise>).

5. Hiring within SME&T departments individuals who wish to pursue research on how undergraduate students learn.

By hiring scholars with expertise in SME&T education research and recognizing their research as equivalent to that undertaken by other department members, SME&T departments can send powerful messages to current college faculty, future K-12 teachers, and graduate and postdoctoral fellows about the importance of improving teaching and

14  

Also available electronically from the National Academy Press at < http://www.nap.edu>

15  

Available on the World Wide Web at <http://www.ou.edu/cas/ botany-micro/faculty/uno-book.shtml>

16  

Additional information is available at <http://mazur-www.harvard.edu/Education/Pl.html>

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

learning. SME&T faculty and education faculty could co-advise graduate students who are undertaking research in SME&T undergraduate education. Faculty members in SME&T departments could pursue research in teaching and learning in their discipline as the primary focus of their scholarship, or as a component. Joint appointments could be made both to an academic department and the institution's school of education. Research opportunities also could be provided to current and future teachers. Such opportunities would provide pre-service teachers with invaluable experiences and would help dispel myths about the research capabilities of teachers in education and in SME&T disciplines.

See Appendix A for additional information about and strategies for implementation of Vision 3 as discussed during the Committee on Undergraduate Science Education's "Year of Dialogue" regional symposia and topical forums.

Vision 4

SME&T faculties would assume greater responsibility for the pre-service and inservice education of K-12 teachers.

Improving the SME&T education of both pre-service and in-service K-12 teachers is one of the most important challenges facing college and university faculties.17 Scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and teacher educators all need to share responsibility for teacher preparation (e.g., Riley, 1998). If Vision 4 were to be realized, these faculty would provide integrated pre-service and in-service experiences that blend scientific knowledge with pedagogical methods and effective teaching practices. Teacher education programs would be informed by the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996b), the Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics and the Professional Development Standards for Teaching Mathematics (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989, 1991), the Standards for Technology Education (The International Technology Education Association, in preparation18), and other national and state-level science and mathematics education reform initiatives (e.g., American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993; Council of Chief State School Officers, 1997).

A critical component of new teacher preparation programs would be the adoption of teaching approaches that enhance pre-service teachers' desire to continue both their professional development and their own personal learning. Science faculty need to become involved in this effort by providing motivating pre-service and in-service opportunities for scientific discovery for K-12 science educators in the classroom, in laboratories, and in the field. Pre-service opportunities also could include classroom teachers and scientists working together with students through school/college partnerships.

Background

Pre-service Education

The growth of standards-based education in grades K-12 requires not only the education and certification of greater numbers of science and mathematics teachers but also a different paradigm for their pre-service education. Given the new standards, most K-4 teachers will now need a general education in the sciences and mathematics and the skills

17  

For a more in-depth study of this topic, see the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future's reports entitled What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future and Doing What Matters Most: Investing in Quality Teaching. These two important reports explain the challenges of preparing future teachers and offer findings and recommendations for improvement.

18  

The Standards for Technology Education are expected to be released in the spring of 1999. CUSE members have not reviewed the standards but know that the authoring committee, the International Technology Education Association (ITEA), has modeled its efforts on the standards work of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Research Council. Indeed, several members of these earlier standards efforts are members of the ITEA working group.

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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to engage students in exploration of the natural world, especially as encountered in their own communities. Middle-school teachers of science and mathematics (grades 5 to 8) will now need broader knowledge of these disciplines and the skills to help their students engage in meaningful scientific inquiry. And high school science teachers will need to have a deep knowledge of the scientific or mathematical disciplines they teach and detailed knowledge of the strengths and limitations of the scientific method. High school teachers also will need to be equipped to help students understand that science is a "way of knowing" that can be compared with other ways of knowing (Moore, 1993).

"It has become impossible to ignore the mounting evidence that our elementary and secondary public schools are not performing as they should. Some say we have a national crisis on our hands. Although we in higher education are very skillful at ignoring the obvious, it is gradually dawning on some of us that we bear a substantial part of the responsibility for this sad situation and, hence, and [sic] equally substantial responsibility for dealing with it. Moreover, it is increasingly clear that our role must extend far beyond helping out embattled K-12 colleagues with 'their' problems. We need to deal with our own, including the way we educate and train the teachers and administrators of the K-12 schools, as well as the processes by which high school graduates become college students and graduates. Simply put, pervasive K-12 reform requires—and cannot succeed without—higher education reform. That is, we must have K-16 reform!"

Langenberg, 1997, pg. 1

If teachers "teach as they are taught," it is then imperative that we improve the undergraduate SME&T education of all future teachers, not just those who will become science or mathematics specialists. Several documents and reports have been published or are now in preparation to help teachers, schools, and school systems use national standards-based instruction and instructional materials in the classroom (e.g., National Research Council, 1997c; National Science Teachers Association's Scope, Sequence and Coordination Project19) and to guide postsecondary institutions in preparing teachers before and during service to be able to teach a standards-based curriculum (e.g., National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1991; Diez et al., 1993; National Research Council, 1996c, 1996d, 1997b, 1997d; National Science Foundation, 1993, 1996b). For example, the National Science Education Standards emphasize the responsibilities of postsecondary institutions in preparing all future teachers (those who are and are not science specialists) and in providing continuing opportunities for professional development to all practicing teachers (National Research Council, 1996b). This emphasis can be found in the recommendations and calls for action by many in the science and mathematics community (e.g., McDermott, 1990; Leitzel, 1991; National Science Foundation, 1993, 1996b; Kirwan, 1994; National Research Council, 1996c, 1996d; Watson, 1998).

Most of the organizations and researchers committed to the improvement of teacher education in SME&T agree that essential steps include the lowering of departmental, institutional, and collegial barriers and far greater professional contact between faculty in SME&T departments and in schools of education. For example, the American Physical Society's (APS) Committee on Education is responsible for initiatives and activities that "improve the cooperation between the educational community and other parts of the physics community."20 Similarly, for many years, the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) has sponsored programs that encourage college and university faculty in physics to work

19  

Available on the World Wide Web at <http://www.gsh.org/ NSTA_SSandC/>

20  

Additional information is available on line at <http://www.aps.org/educ/coe/coe.htm>

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

with their high school counterparts to improve physics teaching at all levels. AAPT's Committee on Research in Physics Education examines and disseminates the results of research about how students learn physics and how that knowledge can be used to improve classroom instruction. 21 The American Society for Microbiology's Board on Education and Training identifies its constituencies as "educators in all fields." 22 All faculty, regardless of discipline, should recognize their mutual role as educators of future disciplinary experts and future K-12 teachers (National Research Council, 1997b).

Despite the fact that some professional societies have long histories of promoting connections between the K-12 and higher education communities within their disciplines, several factors have contributed to the current low or nonexistent level of interaction between SME&T faculty and colleagues in schools of education at many postsecondary institutions. These factors include the trend in modern American colleges and universities toward overspecialization in specific disciplines that has produced too little contact between faculty in different departments and nearly none focusing on teachers. Institutional organizational structures that have evolved in part due to federal policies in support of research have intensified the disciplinary affiliation of faculty members on many campuses. In addition, the faculty reward structure has intensified the dominance of disciplinary interests over a more collegial-based system of values, rewards, and recognition (Boyer, 1990; Glassick et al., 1997; Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998).

As a consequence of these factors, SME&T faculty typically are not well informed about current research on how students learn and how science and mathematics can be taught more effectively (e.g., Gabel, 1994). In some cases, these faculty may not even realize that an extensive body of research-based information exists on these subjects. Similarly, faculty in colleges and schools of education typically are not well informed about the current scientific research, particularly in emerging areas.

In addition, although the education and mentoring of pre-service teachers is optimized when professionals in schools of education, faculty in SME&T departments, and master teachers from the local community work together (e.g., Darling-Hammond, 1997), such cooperation is rare. Many education and SME&T faculty are removed from exposure to teachers in the classroom. Faculty in schools of education often have little direct interaction with K-12 science teachers, even at local schools. SME&T faculty may never see or work with pre-service teachers outside of their courses, if then.

"Lack of interaction among SME&T faculty, faculty in other academic disciplines, and faculty in schools of education is a serious flaw in much of pre-college teacher preparation, arising in a separation of methods from content."

National Science Foundation, 1996b, pg. 49

If the preparation of future science and mathematics teachers is to be aligned with calls from across the nation for standards-based education reform, all faculty, along with local schools, must work together fully to integrate content in subject areas and pedagogy (Bell and Buccino, 1997; see also National Science Foundation, 1998c, and U.S. Department of Education, 1998b, for examples of teacher education programs that involve both SME&T departments and schools of education). Future teachers cannot be expected to guide student learning in ways outlined in the National Science Education Standards, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics K-12 standards, or

21  

Additional information is available on line at <http://www.aapt.org>

22  

Additional information is available at <http://www.asm.org/edusrc/edu7.htm>

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

state curriculum frameworks if they themselves have not experienced such pedagogical approaches in their own undergraduate SME&T courses. They must be exposed to such techniques and must be asked to think deeply about appropriate content across disciplines as outlined in Vision 2, Strategy 1 for faculty and academic departments (see pgs. 33 to 34).

"Scientists have an obligation to assist in science teachers' professional development. Many scientists recognize the obligation and are ready to get involved. Scientists can provide opportunities for teachers to learn how the scientific process works, what scientists do and how and why they do it. They can provide research opportunities for practicing teachers; act as scientific partners; provide connections to the rest of the scientific community; assist in writing grant proposals for science-education projects; provide hands-on, inquiry-based workshops for area teachers; and provide teachers access to equipment, scientific journals, and catalogs not usually available in schools. They can help teachers to review educational material for its accuracy and utility.

When scientists teach their undergraduate classes and laboratories, potential science teachers are present. Scientists should recognize that as an opportunity to promote and act as a model of both good process and accurate content teaching and so strive to improve their own teaching."

National Research Council, 1996d, pg. 3

In-service Education23

The knowledge base in virtually all fields of SME&T is increasing or is being revised with breathtaking rapidity. With the explosive growth of the Internet, information about new developments and breaking events around the world and beyond is available almost instantaneously. Paradigms that served past generations of teachers for acquiring new knowledge, for locating existing information, and for critically evaluating the validity of available data are increasingly inadequate. In addition, expectations are changing about how to present subject matter to students. As standards-based reforms take hold, practicing teachers will need to revise fundamentally not only what but also how they teach their students. Regardless of the grade they teach, teachers cannot be effective in helping students learn about, understand, and appreciate science, mathematics, and technology if they themselves have not been exposed to and asked to think deeply about appropriate content within and across disciplines. Text beginning on pg. 33 under Vision 2, Strategy 1 for faculty and academic departments, provide examples of the kinds of thinking about SME&T to which practicing and prospective teachers should be exposed.

Although in-service programs within K-12 school systems can assist teachers in addressing content and teaching methodology issues, these programs too often fail to impart the deep understanding of content needed to sustain a long-term, systemic change in K-12 education. Teachers need ongoing opportunities to be lifelong learners and to keep abreast of recent developments in many fields, not only in the interest of staying current for their students but for remaining intellectually engaged for themselves. In addition, if teachers had such opportunities, the excitement that they experience would be imparted to their students. Many professions routinely provide opportunities for personal enrichment, for increasing professional skills and knowledge, and for interacting with others in the field: as professionals, teachers need and deserve these same opportunities.

23  

Some educators prefer to use the term "professional development" rather than "in-service" education. In-service education implies a top-down approach, in which college and university faculty or other service providers are the primary sources of knowledge and expertise. By contrast, professional development is an approach that emphasizes full partnership between K-12 and postsecondary faculty in professional communities that are dedicated to improving SME&T education (National Research Council, 1996d). The term "in-service'' is used here because it is more familiar to many postsecondary faculty and administrators, but in this report-as in the National Research Council (1996d) report-professional development is the goal.

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

All colleges and universities need to consider the professional development of local teachers to be part of their educational mission. This mission could be accomplished through both formal and informal means. Formal course work offered to practicing teachers in SME&T should be rich in both content and pedagogy as outlined in the mathematics standards published by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Science Education Standards.

Faculty in postsecondary institutions also could establish more collegial relations with their K-12 colleagues. Outreach programs could provide teachers with access to university library collections (both printed and electronic); invitations to lectures and other activities by visiting scholars; equipment that their schools cannot afford to purchase; and ongoing professional contacts with university scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. The cost to postsecondary institutions would be minimal, but the impact on the professional development of teachers could be profound. In addition, many of these opportunities are easily provided through local partnerships or alliances with local school districts. A large body of literature provides specific suggestions for establishing and maintaining such programs (e.g., Atkin and Atkin, 1989; Ostwald, 1994; Thorsen, 1994; National Research Council, 1996d; Bell and Buccino, 1997).

Strategies for Promoting and Implementing Vision 4

Executive and academic officers of postsecondary institutions can implement Vision 4 by

1. Making available new tenure-track faculty positions for candidates with dual backgrounds in a SME&T discipline and in science education who are interested in promoting innovative and effective undergraduate learning.

These positions could be jointly appointed in an academic department and in the school of education or in one primary department. The provision of oversight and professional development by both departments would be critical as the candidate moved toward professional advancement within the institution.

2. Actively promoting partnerships, consortia, or outreach programs with local school districts to advance the professional development of teachers and to provide resources not otherwise available to local schools.

Extensive research has demonstrated that professional connections among teachers of the K-12 grades and faculty in colleges and universities are sustained and nurtured when the individuals involved view each other as partners. Each group can offer and benefit from the resources, examples of effective practices, and professional insights of the other. Many examples of effective K-12/university partnerships are available (e.g., Atkin and Atkin, 1989; National Research Council, 1990, 1996d; Ostwald, 1994; Thorsen, 1994; Bybee, 1998).

Sustaining partnerships requires a great deal of time and nurturing. At least one person on the postsecondary campus with appropriate credentials and qualifications should be designated and recognized by the community as the coordinator of the program and appropriately compensated for the work involved. If necessary, a new position should be created.

3. Removing institutional obstacles to department donations and continued servicing of high-quality equipment to local school districts.

Many school districts have a low or nonexistent budget with which to purchase new scientific equipment, especially for the lower grade levels. Departments in postsecondary institutions that are retiring equipment should be permitted not only to donate this equipment to local schools but also to help schools maintain it. Alternatively, given the importance of proper maintenance and calibration, particularly of

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

sensitive instruments, donors may want to require the schools to assume this responsibility as part of their end of the partnership.

In addition, teachers need to know the purpose and operation of the donated equipment and its potential for improving learning. To address this need, graduate or undergraduate work-study students (as part of their financial aid packages) could be assigned to conduct workshops on the use of equipment, to be available to answer questions, to troubleshoot problems, or to work directly with teachers in their classrooms in using the donated equipment.

4. Establishing an institutional "hot line" telephone number or current events website to provide local teachers with information about departmental or campus-wide events involving SME&T speakers or other activities.

Often the most valuable resources that can be made available to teachers and their students by postsecondary institutions are those that cost little or nothing, such as invitations to hear outside speakers and other visitors to the campus who have valuable perspectives on advances in SME&T. Postsecondary partners could establish a prerecorded "hot line" or a special website or use existing SME&T departmental websites to provide teachers with timely information about such opportunities. This sharing of resources would also promote greater collegiality between college and K-12 instructors.

5. Providing incentives for faculty from schools of education and SME&T departments to work together to develop both certification options for science majors and continuing education courses for teachers that specifically examine the NCTM's Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics and Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics, the National Science Education Standards, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, Resources for Science Literacy, Standards for Technology Education (in preparation), and state curriculum frameworks and how these can be implemented at various grade levels.

National and state standards provide a vision and guidelines for what students should know and be able to do in mathematics, science, and technology at various grade levels, but they intentionally do not provide specific curricula. Although a number of organizations are currently developing guides for how to use standards (e.g., National Research Council, 1998b) or have provided curricular materials (e.g., Texley and Wild, 1996; Lowery, 1997; American Chemical Society, 1997; National Academy of Sciences, 1998; National Science Resources Center, 1998), translating the various standards into actual classroom practice remains a challenge that teachers of grades K-16 should undertake together. Through continuing education courses on standards for K-12 teachers, faculty from SME&T departments and schools of education could provide local K-12 teachers with guidance on integrating standards-based approaches to teaching and learning into their local school curricula. In some cases, preparation for such courses could serve to keep SME&T and education faculty current in this area.

6. Making available financial resources to hire local master teachers as adjunct faculty to work with faculty in both schools of education and SME&T departments on improving pre-service education and in assessing student learning.

Teachers with years of experience in the classroom have a keen eye for recognizing when students are and are not learning what is being taught. In many districts, teachers who have been designated as "master teachers" often have undergone additional training in pedagogical techniques, child development, and cognition. They have developed innovative ways to present concepts and ideas that many students find difficult to grasp. In addition, they are well aware of the issues and difficulties that new teachers will face. Thus, master teachers hired as advisors or consultants could provide invaluable perspective to postsecondary faculty in both SME&T departments and in schools of education on both

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

the content and pedagogy of teacher preparation programs in SME&T.

Such relationships might involve postsecondary institutions reimbursing local school districts for the salaries and benefits of these teachers, allowing them to spend a sabbatical leave on campus. Alternatively, SME&T departments and schools of education might jointly offer graduate-level credit to master teachers seeking advanced degrees.

Individual faculty and academic departments can implement Vision 4 by

1. Measuring the effectiveness of each component of the pre-service curriculum in fostering innovative pedagogy and in exploring SME&T concepts.

Universities should undertake long-term studies of their graduates who have embarked on careers in teaching to assess the effects of both the education and SME&T components of the institution's pre-service programs. The emphasis should be on how well the K-12 students of these teachers are learning science and mathematics and on how the teachers' performance was affected by their postsecondary curricular experiences. Results from these studies could then be shown to and discussed with newly hired teachers, their former education and SME&T professors, and relevant school system administrators.

2. Inviting regional K-12 science and mathematics teachers to participate in on-campus seminars where recent scientific or pedagogical research is discussed.

These seminars might consider such topics as the appropriate use in classrooms of information technology and the Internet or ways for postsecondary and K-12 schools to cooperate in implementing science and mathematics standards. The seminars and similar activities could be sponsored by both schools of education and SME&T departments to increase understanding and awareness among a wider spectrum of educators.

3. Inviting master teachers to serve as adjunct faculty and colleagues in both schools of education and SME&T departments.

If content and pedagogy are to be truly integrated components of teacher preparation programs, then master teachers with recognized teaching skills and a great deal of experience in the classroom should become more directly involved with both the practicum and course work activities of pre-service teachers. These master teachers could be local teachers from different grade levels or from other local two- and four-year postsecondary institutions who have been recognized for their teaching prowess and accomplishments. They could be brought into two- and four-year college and university classrooms and laboratory settings as jointly appointed adjunct faculty. These master teachers would benefit not only the students who are future teachers but also the postsecondary faculty who are involved with the sponsoring institution's pre-service program. Pre-service teachers and postsecondary faculty could benefit both from gaining an understanding of the actual challenges that each of these groups of practicing master teachers faces and through direct exposure to effective teaching practice. Pre-service teachers could benefit from the opportunity to establish professional relationships with faculty from two- and four-year postsecondary institutions that could carry over to their induction years and beyond.

Master teachers of grades K-12 would benefit by being involved with such partnerships and working with community college and university colleagues. They could participate directly in or gain exposure to cutting-edge research and other opportunities to learn about new knowledge and controversies in established and emerging fields of SME&T. In addition, K-12 master teachers could participate in university-level courses, gain more direct access to visiting speakers and seminars for themselves and their students, and act as peer evaluators for assessing the teaching

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

skills of their university colleagues. Finally, K12 master teachers could benefit by learning techniques used in college-level SME&T teaching laboratories that might be useful for their own students.

4. Employing discipline-based science teachers in the continuing education of fellow teachers.

Teachers who have extensive training and background in science could be engaged to work with postsecondary faculty to provide courses and other in-service experiences for their fellow teachers. Such an approach might be particularly appropriate for professional development for the teachers of the primary and middle grades who often lack content knowledge but want more. This approach would have the added benefit of allowing teachers from different grade levels to interact much more than is usually possible during the school year and to discuss issues of common concern, such as coordination of curricula across grades and school levels.

See Appendix A for additional information about and strategies for implementation of Vision 4 as discussed during the Committee on Undergraduate Science Education's "Year of Dialogue" regional symposia and topical forums.

Vision 5

All postsecondary institutions would provide the rewards and recognition, resources, tools, and infrastructure necessary to promote innovative and effective undergraduate SME&T teaching and learning.

The central importance of offering high-quality introductory SME&T courses must be visibly recognized through appropriate recognition of and rewards to individual faculty and staff and, collectively, to departmental and other program units. If Vision 5 were to be realized, postsecondary institutions would recognize and appropriately reward faculty leaders and departments or program units that have introduced new teaching and learning methods into their courses and curricular programs. Modern tools (e.g., access to information technology) and other kinds of institutional support would be provided to faculty and staff who wanted to use these tools in their classrooms and laboratories. Well-staffed resource centers would be provided where faculty and students could obtain the latest information about alternative and effective teaching and learning techniques. These resource centers also would serve as sites for piloting new programs and practicing effective teaching and assessment activities.

The authoring committee recognizes that implementing the visions of this report could require new funds or shifts in the allocation of resources. The costs involved may vary considerably from institution to institution. With the evidence and information provided in this report, the committee hopes to stimulate serious discussions at all higher education institutions that will take into account the need for new or reallocated resources to implement change.

Background

Rewards and Recognition

Because faculty time is the major resource required to fulfill the vision of high-quality introductory SME&T courses and curricula for all undergraduates, the reward and recognition system of academic departments and postsecondary institutions must be structured to encourage rather than discourage commitment of this time by faculty. Currently, two important barriers to change exist at many postsecondary institutions:

(1) Tenure and promotion depend on a faculty member's research, teaching, and service. However, some research universities place such a premium on research

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

that teaching performance often is perceived as having little more than a tie-breaking value in important personnel decisions, such as tenure, promotion, or merit salary increases (Boyer, 1990; Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, 1994; Kennedy, 1997; Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998; however, see also Office of the President, University of California, 1991). Because some other postsecondary institutions are following the research university model, they are increasingly interested in the original research conducted by their faculty yet also continue to expect high levels of performance in teaching and service.

In two recent surveys, faculty and administrators at various institutions were asked about the direction their institutions should take with respect to emphasizing research, teaching, or some combination thereof. Results indicated that, between 1990 and 1992 and 1992 and 1994, faculty preference at institutions ranging in Carnegie categories from Research I to Baccalaureate II had shifted from a balanced emphasis to a stronger emphasis on teaching. Many of the respondents to the two surveys also indicated that while their institutions purported to emphasize a greater expectation for both teaching and research, the operative reward systems in their institutions did not support this emphasis (Gray et al., 1996).

(2) Faculty development of innovative courses for all students requires the interest and support of departments as well as the time and effort of the individual faculty members. However, pressures within the disciplines and departmental funding patterns strongly favor the recruitment and production of majors and future graduate students, not scientifically literate non-majors. Faculty need to see comparable incentives and rewards for teaching general education courses to students who will not go on to careers in SME&T. For such innovation to be sustained, departments must make it a priority to nurture the creativity of their individual faculty members and to disseminate the instructional and pedagogical fruits of their labors.

Resources, Tools, and Infrastructure

The absence of instructional resources, tools, and infrastructure support may limit or prevent course innovation. Two types of support are needed, as follows:

(1) Support that integrates simulation and experimentation activities into the course (e.g., laboratory space, facilities and equipment for both 'wet' and 'dry' laboratory and field exercises).

Collaborative learning and project-based learning often require ready access to information technology and networks as

"Rather than set arbitrary teaching loads for each faculty member, the dean or provost should enter into negotiations with a department to establish what its total obligation to undergraduate students is, including the vitally important individual contact such as advising and the supervision of independent study. In the course of the negotiations, the department would be forced to review and evaluate its curriculum, the kinds of educational opportunities it offers, and the engagement of individual faculty with different portions of the task. In the end, there would be a clear understanding of what the department is responsible for. For its part, the department would be able to meet those responsibilities in a flexible way, assigning the best lecturers to lower-division courses and the best small-group seminar leaders to courses of that kind . . . By making departments accountable for meeting well-defined obligations to students, the institution would also become more inclusive in its definition of what constitutes teaching."

Kennedy, 1997, pgs. 63-64

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

well as to classroom, laboratory, discussion, and study group spaces (e.g., Baker and Gifford, 1997; National Science Foundation, 1998b; Benson and Yuan, 1998). Such facilities should be available to students beyond regularly scheduled class times. The absence or limited availability of such space can be a major barrier on many campuses to implementing new approaches to teaching. New teaching and learning paradigms, such as collaborative learning teams, may also challenge existing college schedules and security arrangements or involve facilities that lie outside the physical boundaries of a department's classrooms and laboratory spaces. Institutions must find ways to make facilities more open while maintaining security and minimizing differences in departmental resources, physical space, and perceived "ownership" of resources by certain faculty or departments. Planning for supporting infrastructure does not need to precede planning for curriculum innovation. To the contrary, planning for new or reconstructed spaces and for new instrumentation and equipment is best undertaken following or in conjunction with the articulation of a plan about how those spaces and equipment would be used for teaching and learning (e.g., Narum, 1995).

(2) Support that facilitates innovative approaches to computation, communication, and "visualization" of problems by students, among students, and between students and faculty.

Such support would include ready access to the World Wide Web, publicly and commercially available databases, and computer hardware configured to run modern applications. Faculty and students also need "user-friendly" educational software that allows them to spend their time researching and solving problems generated by course work rather than troubleshooting software problems. However, faculty and their institutions must be careful to avoid equating ready accessibility to information technology and ease-of-use with quality teaching and learning. Preoccupation with tools rather than with teaching and learning processes may actually impede pedagogical and educational innovation (Ehrmann, 1995; National Science Foundation, 1998b).

Strategies for Promoting and Implementing Vision 5

Executive and academic officers of postsecondary institutions can implement Vision 5 by

1. Creating general and discipline-based Teaching and Learning Centers that

  • provide advice and technical support so that innovations can be implemented successfully;
  • provide students with internships, assistantships, or fellowships to encourage input into the development of courses; and
  • offer small grants to provide faculty with released time or other resources for particularly innovative SME&T course development that exceeds substantially the normal course preparation commitment.

Teaching and Learning Centers can provide expert staff and material resources to faculty at all levels to improve their classroom teaching and interactions with students as mentors and advisors. Academic officers should ensure that new or existing centers have both the staff expertise and resources to make readily available the latest information on SME&T education. These resources might include K-12 standards in science and mathematics as well as information about innovations in undergraduate SME&T education, especially new approaches for teaching within individual disciplines and in interdisciplinary SME&T courses. These resources and references could include those available through the Internet and in scholarly journals. Sustained support for such activities would most likely take place on campuses where faculty members were encouraged to

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

use such centers and other resources as part of career-long professional development of their teaching skills and efficacy. Specialized support for the SME&T disciplines could be enhanced by staffing these centers with professionals who have specific backgrounds in SME&T, such as science librarians.

Another primary mission of Teaching and Learning Centers should be the dissemination of effective teaching tools and techniques. Center staff should recruit particularly effective teachers to serve as role models and speakers at campus discussions on teaching. Center staff could also make sure that the pedagogical techniques of these exemplars are recorded and disseminated to other colleagues on campus. In exchange for working with the Teaching and Learning Center to give presentations or record their innovations in writing or on videotape, these role models also could receive other forms of recognition, such as institutional stipends or access to student assistants to help with course development or research.

Many Teaching and Learning centers from a wide variety of postsecondary institutions now post information about their activities and available resources on the Internet. Because each center emphasizes different aspects of teaching and learning, it is difficult to characterize specific examples or models of successful centers. Readers are urged to explore the large number of websites now available from these centers. A listing of and pointers to Internet sites for a large number of Teaching and Learning Centers are available at <http://www.ukans.edu/~sypherh/bc/us.html>

2. Providing incentives, including recognition, to individual faculty to upgrade their teaching skills and knowledge of educational issues by participating in programs at their institution's Teaching and Learning Center and in departmental or cross-disciplinary seminars and workshops.

Individual faculty members typically teach in isolated classrooms and have little or no discussion with their colleagues concerning issues of teaching and learning. Unlike their experiences in research, faculty members often lack opportunities to discuss theory, methods, and successes and failures in teaching. Faculty need to be encouraged to engage in such discussions, whether through formal programs or less formal seminars, as a means to encourage them and their departments to value teaching as a form of scholarship (Hutchings, 1996). A number of national organizations facilitate such communication by inviting faculty and administrative teams to participate in workshops or other activities related to teaching and learning.24

3. Providing incentives, including institutional recognition and additional financial support, to departments and other program units that collectively work to improve teaching, student learning, and curricular offerings to meet the needs of all of their students.

To encourage departments to work on improving undergraduate SME&T education as a unit, academic officers could provide some rewards or incentives to these units in addition to or perhaps even in place of those offered to individual faculty and staff. For example, some percentage of departmental budgets could reflect the implementation of one or another of the visions articulated in this report. Departments that do a particularly good job of implementing a vision could be recognized publicly, and their work could be publicized by the institution, both on-campus and externally (e.g., in local media or through alumni publications).

4. Making easily accessible to the faculty new software useful for common tasks, including those associated with innovative SME&T courses.

It is clear that when everyone in an institution uses the same operating system, word processing, spreadsheet, database, and World Wide Web browsing software, it is easier to focus more on work and less on the vagaries and nuances of the software. However, not

24  

For example, see activities of Project Kaleidoscope at <http://www.pkal.org>

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

every institution can or will standardize to this extent, in part due to the expense. At the very least, faculty should have easy access to new software that allows them to share data more easily and to experience fewer of the problems associated with converting formats. Non-faculty benefits would include less time spent by information technologies staff on learning how to fix new problems associated with exotic software applications and more time spent training other employees to use applications more effectively. Accordingly, it is important for the institution to provide sufficient access to both common information technology resources and web-based services for assigned work.

5. Devising a comprehensive plan to update or replace computer hardware, software, and associated resources on a regular basis.

As with most other disciplines, SME&T faculty, students, and departments increasingly depend on information from sources around the world to accomplish their work and to engage in the development of new courses and other projects. As the pace of innovation quickens in information technology, institutions of higher education must make conscious decisions to devote more of their resources to making sufficient numbers of appropriate and up-to-date tools available to teachers and learners. Regular replacement of the oldest hardware and software on campus and the transfer of previously purchased high-end equipment to users with less need for the latest innovation should become part of an overall institutional plan for providing everyone on campus with maximum needed access to information technology.

6. Working to assess and meet institution-wide needs for the space, equipment, and other resources needed to upgrade and improve the curriculum.

A comprehensive plan for curricular reform and innovation often points to the need to design new facilities or remodel old ones. However, such a plan should not simply serve as a catalyst but also as a driver of the changes to be made. Academic leaders can assist the process by making clear to all involved that curriculum should drive the design of physical space. They can then work with individual faculty, departments, and programs to develop a vision for curricular innovation. Once the vision exists, it should be translated first into specific courses and activities and then into an identification of the kinds of space, instrumentation, and equipment needed to support these courses and activities. When all those steps have been taken, a comprehensive plan of action can be constructed and proposed to the community. Once the community has embraced the plan, campus leaders can approach potential donors for the needed funds.

Individual faculty and academic departments can implement Vision 5 by

1. Including a scholarly assessment of faculty participation in improving teaching and curriculum as one of the criteria for promotion, tenure, and other personnel decisions.

Many panels, commissions, and individual authors have addressed these issues (e.g., Boyer, 1990; Glassick et al., 1997; Kennedy, 1997). Some organizations have engaged colleges and universities in studies to find ways to incorporate comprehensive and fair assessment of teaching into personnel decisions (e.g., Hutchings, 1996). A detailed discussion of these issues is beyond the purview of this report. However, the authors of this report agree that if departments and institutions truly want faculty to view quality teaching of undergraduates as being on par with other scholarly responsibilities and achievements, they must require that clear evidence of such accomplishments be collected and submitted as part of all personnel decisions. In turn, institutions must provide clear evidence that this information will be considered as an integral part of their personnel decision-making process and that excellent teachers will

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

be rewarded with the conferring of tenure or promotion in rank.

2. Using a departmental vision and plan for curricular innovation to guide requests for space and/or facilities utilization.

Because the curriculum should drive the design of space and/or facilities rather than the reverse, departments should be prepared to use their curricular vision and plans for innovation when issues regarding space and/or facilities arise (see Narum, 1995, and Strategy 4 on pg. 51).

3. Allocating space for students to work together in environments equipped with readily accessible research tools.

Undergraduates can benefit academically and intellectually by engaging in meaningful research problems both inside and outside of their regular course work (Project Kaleidoscope, 1991, 1994; Benson and Yuan, 1998). Such activities might require teamwork and be conducted in environments that provide ready access to computers and the Internet, for example.

4. Discussing case studies of innovative and effective practices in science and mathematics teaching as a routine part of departmental business.

Access to and discussion of case studies or teaching portfolios of faculty who have excelled in teaching or service (such as training K-12 teachers or working with industry) could be useful in helping other faculty to prepare their dossiers for tenure or promotion. Through exposure to these case studies, faculty could gain a broader understanding of the possible range of faculty contributions that might be considered in personnel decisions, for example. In addition, such discussions could help promote collegiality within departments as colleagues learn more about each other's contributions and promote greater equity among departments in the ways that faculty are evaluated for their teaching accomplishments (Hutchings, 1993).

5. Discussing with colleagues information about effective teaching practices that is increasingly available on the World Wide Web.

The abundance of materials related to teaching and learning of SME&T subject matter on the World Wide Web offers new opportunities for faculty to learn from others in their disciplines around the world. Until this material is more systematically catalogued and reviewed for quality (e.g., National Research Council, 1998a), faculty members in a department can work with each other to share and discuss information about websites in their disciplines. Faculty also can urge their professional societies to collate and make this kind of information available on their websites and to share that information with other disciplines through website consortia. For example, the Council for Education in the Life Sciences now has a website that links users to the home pages of many professional societies in the biological sciences where information about biology teaching and learning can be easily accessed.25

Also see Appendix A for additional information about and strategies for implementation of Vision 5 as discussed during the Committee on Undergraduate Science Education's "Year of Dialogue" regional symposia and topical forums.

Vision 6

Postsecondary institutions would provide quality experiences that encourage graduate and postdoctoral students, and especially those who aspire to careers as postsecondary faculty in SME&T disciplines, to become skilled teachers and current postsecondary faculty to acquire additional knowledge about how teaching methods affect student learning.

25  

The World Wide Web url is <http://www.wisc.edu/cels>

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

Graduate degree programs should provide graduate and postdoctoral students with training in the pedagogical skills they need to teach undergraduates effectively in classroom, laboratory, and field settings. In adopting Vision 6, universities also would provide all faculty with resources and opportunities for continuing professional development, informal education, and professional interaction with their higher education colleagues in order to help them enhance their professional skills and expertise as teacher-scholars throughout their academic careers.

". . . we have not, as a nation, paid adequate attention to the function of the graduate schools in meeting the country's varied needs for scientists and engineers. There is no clear human-resources policy for advanced scientists and engineers, so their education is largely a byproduct of policies that support research. The simplifying assumption has apparently been that the primary mission of graduate programs is to produce the next generation of academic researchers. In view of the broad range of ways in which scientists and engineers contribute to national needs, it is time to review how they are educated to do so."

National Research Council, 1995b, pg. ES-3



"More than half of all doctoral students will seek employment in colleges and universities, 54 per cent according to the National Research Council's 1995 Survey of Earned Doctorates. The percentage of Ph.D.s who become faculty varies broadly between fields, ranging from 83 per cent of humanities majors to 22 per cent of engineering majors. Most future faculty, however, cannot realistically expect to find positions at the 3 per cent of the nation's colleges and universities that are research universities. Yet graduate education severely neglects the professional goal of the majority of students who will become college professors, that is to say, teaching."

Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998, pgs. viii-1

Background

Recent reports on graduate education and postdoctoral experiences all point to a changing job market where alternatives to research careers in academe are becoming increasingly important for many Ph.D.s in a variety of fields (National Research Council, 1995b; Rice, 1996; Tobias et al., 1995; National Science Foundation, 1996a; Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, 1997; Association of American Universities, 1998). It is emphasized that students who can work collaboratively, have high-level oral and written communication skills, and are expert in some aspect of SME&T but are also broadly trained are more employable than students who have taken a more narrow approach to their dissertations and career preparation.

Excellent teachers have all of these qualities, but too few SME&T graduate programs systematically encourage their development. In collaboration with the Council of Graduate Schools, some graduate schools recently have initiated comprehensive programs to introduce their students to the excitement and challenge of careers that emphasize teaching undergraduates or students in the nation's public schools. 26 However, it is more frequently the case that graduate programs in SME&T do not systematically prepare masters or Ph.D. candidates to work with undergraduates. Nor do these programs expose these advanced students to current issues in SME&T education that they will need to know for successful academic careers, especially at primarily teaching institutions that offer some of the best opportunities for employment. Indeed, graduate mentors

26  

Additional information about this program is available at <http://www.cgsnet.org/programs/pff.htm>

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

may explicitly or implicitly discourage their students from spending too much time and effort preparing for careers in teaching if it "distracts" them from their research projects or lengthens the time needed for them to obtain their degree (Boyer Commission on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University, 1998).

Lack of preparation for teaching extends to the postdoctoral level. In some fields, Ph.D.s undertake two or more postdoctoral fellowships before finding more permanent positions (Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, 1997; Association of American Universities, 1998, National Research Council, 1998c), yet few postdoctoral positions encourage or even permit opportunities to gain teaching experience. 27 This is true despite the aspiration of many postdoctoral fellows to careers in academe (Association of American Universities, 1998).

Lewis (1994) has argued that undergraduate education is the keystone for the education system in the United States because it prepares everyone who will go on to teach from kindergarten through the undergraduate years. Therefore, institutions of higher education not only have responsibility for preparing SME&T graduate and post-doctoral students for careers in research but also for preparing future teachers and providing current teachers with continuing education. In addition to acknowledging that they have all of these responsibilities, institutions of higher education should exercise these responsibilities with a high level of care, rigor, and intellectual excitement. The importance of teaching and learning deserves no less.

Professionals in other fields are required to upgrade their skills continually and confront new issues in their disciplines (including teachers in grades K-12). Faculty who teach undergraduate and graduate students should have similar opportunities to upgrade and update their knowledge base and skills related to educational issues and pedagogy.

"Increasingly today's postdocs find themselves in 'no man's land.' Theirs is frequently an unstructured existence that is compounded by shortages in faculty positions, low salaries, little or no job security, and ever-tightening budgets. They are neither faculty members, with all the associated benefits and potential for tenure, nor are they student research assistants. In fact, some institutions have a dozen or more 'employment categories' for postdocs, so it is sometimes difficult to identify them. The long hours they log are juxtaposed against increasing lengths of time in postdocs, as they often opt to extend or start new ones. Their inability to secure permanent positions often is given as a reason for such extension of time as postdocs."

Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, 1997, pg. 4

Strategies for Promoting and Implementing Vision 6

Executive and academic officers of postsecondary institutions can implement Vision 6 by

1. Working with graduate faculties to establish programs that integrate discussion of important current issues in teaching and learning while both faculty and graduate teaching assistants acquire new teaching skills.

In 1997, Diamond and Gray (1998) conducted a survey of graduate students in a variety of disciplines (both inside and outside the natural sciences) at seven large public

27  

Some notable exceptions do exist. For example, the National Science Foundation sponsors a program of two-year Postdoctoral Fellowships in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education that provides up to 20 fellows per year with opportunities to develop ". . . the necessary skills to assume leadership roles in SME&T education in the nation's diverse educational institutions" and "expertise in a facet of science education research that would qualify them for a range of educational positions that will come with the 21st century." (NSF Bulletin 97-166.) NSF also sponsors the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) program that emphasizes multidisciplinary projects (<http://www.ehr.nsf.gov/EHR/DGE/igert.htm>). In the private sector, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation offers senior faculty at predominately undergraduate institutions the opportunity to hire postdoctoral fellows. These fellows then have specific responsibilities to engage in teaching undergraduates.

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

and private research universities across the United States. These students were asked to indicate their major responsibilities as teaching assistants, the type and level of preparation they had received, and those aspects of teaching in which they wanted more preparation. When data from the 1997 survey were compared to data from a similar survey conducted at the same institutions 10 years earlier, Diamond and Gray found that greater numbers of graduate students were receiving more opportunities for training in teaching. The training identified included conducting classroom discussions, using audiovisual aids and instructional technology, and understanding university regulations about classroom and professional conduct.

"Because so much of teaching assistants' development takes place informally within departments, it is essential that structures be developed and maintained that encourage and support departmental faculty and administrators. Each new cohort of graduate students has the same needs and only through constant attention can the quality of their experience stay consistent over time. Improving that experience takes even greater effort, but such efforts [sic] can pay dividends on individual campuses and in individual departments in the preparation of future generations of faculty members."

Diamond and Gray, 1998, pgs. 18 and 19

However, the survey also identified remaining trouble spots. For example, 25 percent of the 1997 survey respondents stated that they were being offered no formal preparation for their teaching responsibilities. Further, the surveys showed that the major responsibilities of teaching assistants had changed little: grading (97% of the respondents in both surveys) and conducting office hours for undergraduates (94% of respondents in both surveys). When the 1997 survey respondents were asked what additional preparation they would like, they gave preference to self-evaluation, course evaluation, developments in technology, and classroom presentation. Three out of every four of the graduate student-respondents in the 1997 survey indicated that they planned to pursue academic careers.

Most likely, many of these students will find such positions in institutions other than research universities (Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, 1997). Thus, graduate and postdoctoral programs should help prepare them for such employment by making available opportunities to study issues related to undergraduate teaching and to gain practical experiences as teaching assistants for undergraduate SME&T laboratories. These opportunities should be available as early in the graduate or postdoctoral careers of these students as possible.

Suggestions for developing effective programs for graduate students and examples of such programs in the biological sciences, chemistry, mathematics, and other disciplines can be found in Lambert and Tice (1993). Also, the Council of Graduate Schools, in collaboration with the American Association of Colleges and Universities, has established the "Preparing Future Faculty" program. This initiative encourages new approaches to graduate education for students in research institutions who are planning careers in academe by providing opportunities to practice teaching and to learn about the roles and responsibilities of faculty members at institutions that primarily serve undergraduates.28

2. Establishing arrangements with community colleges, other undergraduate institutions, and K12 schools that allow graduate and postdoctoral students to experience teaching at these types of schools.

Opportunities for faculty positions at top-tier research institutions are diminishing

28  

Additional information about this program is available at <http://www.cgsnet.org/programs/pff.htm>

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

(National Research Council, 1995b, 1996e). Current data and projections indicate that two-year community colleges, K-12 schools, and four-year predominantly undergraduate institutions are where greater opportunities for employment will exist for a growing number of young scientists, mathematicians, and engineers in the United States. These changing demographics make it increasingly imperative for graduate and postdoctoral students in SME&T who wish to teach to have exposure to the lifestyles and responsibilities of faculty members in local community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and comprehensive universities (as encouraged by the Council of Graduate Schools; see also Strategy 1, page 55, and footnote 27), and to learn about the lifestyles and responsibilities of K-12 teachers. For example, more than 40 percent of the nation's undergraduates attend and may receive most of their postsecondary science and mathematics education from two-year institutions (National Science Foundation, 1997a), and that percentage is growing. Through the establishment of arrangements with local community colleges, graduate and postdoctoral students could gain invaluable teaching experience in lower-division courses and greater understanding of the needs of students who may not pursue additional education in SME&T. There also is a current and projected demand for K-12 teachers: at present, there is a shortfall in teachers certified in science and mathematics; and over the next decade, some two million K-12 teachers are expected to retire (Darling-Hammond, 1997).

3. Providing infrastructure that encourages graduate student and faculty access to publications, videos, and other materials that address the improvement of undergraduate teaching.

Postsecondary institutions can make it easier for faculty and teaching assistants to examine these resources by purchasing enough copies for those who are interested. Copies of these materials should be made available at the campus Teaching and Learning Center (including through the Center's campus intranet or World Wide Web site or in the libraries of individual SME&T departments).

4. Encouraging appropriate academic departments and campus service units to assist graduates with preparing summaries of their work in a form accessible to the general public.

Many graduate and postdoctoral students will elect careers that require them to employ public speaking and other oral and written communication skills. It is likely that, at some point, these students will need to explain their often highly technical work to audiences that lack the background to understand and appreciate that work. Graduate and postdoctoral training programs could begin to enhance students' abilities to address these and other audiences early in their careers. In addition to reporting on their work through the traditional venues-scholarly journals and presentations at professional meetings-graduate and postdoctoral students could be asked to prepare summaries or longer presentations of their work for inclusion in alumni magazines, departmental brochures and websites. These advanced students also could give talks at all-campus forums or local community organizations.

Academic departments that might be engaged to teach graduate and postdoctoral students how to prepare clear, concise, and effective articles and presentations include offices of communications and departments in the SME&T disciplines themselves. Campus service units, such as the Office of Public Affairs, also could be involved. By using the work of students to announce new research results in the publications of an institution, both the institution and the students could benefit.

Individual faculty and academic departments can implement Vision 6 by

1. Encouraging departments to offer graduate and postdoctoral students opportunities to improve their teaching skills in laboratories, classrooms,

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

and in the field, even when such activities might compete with time dedicated to individual research.

Many graduate students work directly with SME&T undergraduates as teaching assistants in laboratories and discussion sections of courses, but they often have little opportunity to be involved with the many facets of preparing and teaching a whole course. Teaching assistantships should be designed to allow and encourage graduate and postdoctoral students to develop a broad array of effective inquiry-based teaching and learning skills in a variety of contexts. These acquired skills and experiences could instill in graduate and postdoctoral students a sense of the breadth of responsibilities that faculty assume as teachers, advisors, and mentors of undergraduate students in SME&T. Programs that have been recognized for their success in preparing the next generation of faculty are in place in a variety of institutions (e.g., examples in Lambert and Tice, 1993).

In addition, outside support from both federal agencies and private foundations is available. For example, the National Science Foundation administers the Postdoctoral Fellowships in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology Education (<http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/getpub?nsf9917>). Examples from private foundations include the Cottrell Scholars Awards given by the Research Corporation to beginning faculty in chemistry and physics who excel at both research and teaching. (<http://www.rescorp.org>) and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation's teacher-scholar awards to strengthen teaching and research careers of faculty in the chemical sciences (<http://www.dreyfus.org/th.shtml#introduction>).

2. Serving as role models and mentors for graduate and postdoctoral students interested in pursuing careers in K-12 or postsecondary teaching.

Faculty can model effective teaching practices to graduate and postdoctoral students in many ways. In addition to providing these students with opportunities to observe and engage in teaching, faculty can convey the importance of the teaching enterprise by becoming intellectually engaged themselves in issues of teaching and pedagogy and by utilizing campus resources to improve their individual teaching skills. Faculty also can encourage their protégés to participate in workshops and seminars on teaching sponsored by professional societies. Faculty advisors can enhance the value of this exposure by accompanying their students to these sessions and by holding follow-up discussions with their research groups.

3. Asking invited speakers at departmental colloquia to discuss briefly aspects of their teaching as a routine part of the introduction to their scientific work or educational research.

Faculty mentors can indicate the importance of undergraduate teaching by describing their own teaching interests and accomplishments and inviting visiting speakers to do so as well. Presentations by speakers may emphasize their research interests and expertise, but, when appropriate, these speakers also could be asked to give a separate presentation about their teaching experiences or at least an opening statement about how the research to be described has been included in their teaching.

4. Reserving time at department meetings to discuss participation of graduate students in curriculum, assessment, and other educational issues.

Faculty whose departments encourage them to spend time discussing their work as teachers become more engaged in all aspects of providing quality undergraduate education (Kennedy, 1997). Both current and prospective faculty should engage as educators in intellectual discourse about teaching and learning that is similar to their engagement as researchers in discourse about research. Given that many graduate students and postdoctoral

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×

fellows highly value the securing of positions in academe, departments could invite colleagues from other types of postsecondary institutions to department meetings to discuss the requirements for and expectations of faculty members at those institutions. Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows might also be invited to provide peer assessments of faculty teaching.

5. As part of the interview process, asking faculty candidates to present a general lecture to undergraduates on a topic selected by the department or program or to give a pedagogical seminar to faculty and graduate students that discusses some aspect of teaching.

Expecting faculty candidates to present either a lecture to undergraduates on some aspect of the discipline or a seminar to faculty and graduate students in which the candidates discuss some aspect of teaching can send a powerful message to graduate students and prospective faculty members about the importance the department places on teaching.

See Appendix A for additional information about and strategies for implementation of Vision 6 as discussed during the Committee on Undergraduate Science Education's "Year of Dialogue" regional symposia and topical forums.

Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Page 50
Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Page 51
Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Page 52
Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×
Page 53
Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×
Page 54
Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×
Page 55
Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×
Page 56
Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×
Page 57
Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
×
Page 58
Suggested Citation:"Visions for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." National Research Council. 1999. Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/6453.
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Page 59
Next: Conclusion and Epilogue »
Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Get This Book
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Today's undergraduate students--future leaders, policymakers, teachers, and citizens, as well as scientists and engineers--will need to make important decisions based on their understanding of scientific and technological concepts. However, many undergraduates in the United States do not study science, mathematics, engineering, or technology (SME&T) for more than one year, if at all. Additionally, many of the SME&T courses that students take are focused on one discipline and often do not give students an understanding about how disciplines are interconnected or relevant to students' lives and society.

To address these issues, the National Research Council convened a series of symposia and forums of representatives from SME&T educational and industrial communities. Those discussions contributed to this book, which provides six vision statements and recommendations for how to improve SME&T education for all undergraduates.

The book addresses pre-college preparation for students in SME&T and the joint roles and responsibilities of faculty and administrators in arts and sciences and in schools of education to better educate teachers of K-12 mathematics, science, and technology. It suggests how colleges can improve and evaluate lower-division undergraduate courses for all students, strengthen institutional infrastructures to encourage quality teaching, and better prepare graduate students who will become future SME&T faculty.

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