Biology Scholars Program: Faculty Address Scholarly Teaching

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Title of Abstract: Biology Scholars Program: Faculty Address Scholarly Teaching

Name of Author: Amy Chang
Author Company or Institution: American Society for Microbiology
Author Title: Education Director
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses
Course Levels: Faculty Development, Introductory Course(s), Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Adding to the literature on how people learn, Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Mixed Approach
Keywords: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Discipline-based Education Research, Student and Course Assessments, Science Education Research, Science Education Publishing

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Loretta Brancaccio-Taras, Kingsborough Community College CUNY

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The goal of the Biology Scholars Program (BSP) is to empower biologists to be leaders in science education and catalyze professional societies to sustain education reform. Since 2005, the program has fostered 200 biologists in evidenced-based teaching, supported a robust community of Scholars, and catalyzed networks among societies to sustain these efforts. Scholars come from all sectors of higher education: 10% from community colleges, 30% from undergraduate colleges, 30% from comprehensive universities, and 30% from doctoral institutions. Scholars are leaders on their campuses, in their communities, and across the nation in professional societies and public and private agencies (

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: Faculty development is achieved through three yearlong residencies - structured faculty learning communities spanning all biological sciences, all institutional types, and all teaching positions (e.g., graduate students, fellows, lecturers, teaching professors, professors, curriculum directors and department chairs). The residencies cover assessment, the scholarship of teaching in biology, science education and/or discipline-based education research (DBER), and publishing. Prospective Scholars apply to participate in a specific residency and commit to addressing their own teaching challenges. Although residencies are envisioned as a progression through DBER, Scholars may enter the program at any point. The model for each residency is the same: an online learning community and peer mentoring; and intensive face-to-face training coupled with a capstone experience. Upon completion of a residency, Scholars graduate into an alumni network that connects Scholars from different cohorts into a single community fostering networking, mentoring, organizing and leading biologists and biology societies. Another critical feature is the Ambassador Program. BSP Ambassadors are active in professional societies, participating in society programs and serving on committees. Leadership at the society level promotes national dissemination and visibility of promising practices, and sustainability.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: The BSP uses surveys and focus groups after each institute and capstone experience to monitor and adjust the annual residencies. A summative assessment of the 2006-2012 cohorts, conducted in 2013 using a mixed-method approach, helped to determine whether the overall program is effective and how Scholars were advancing reform efforts particularly in their societies. Ninety-five respondents (58% response rate) completed the survey ( In 2014, we plan to conduct two additional studies, one of BSP partner societies to determine the effect of Scholars on their education programs and another of the literature to determine the role Scholars play in contributing to the DBER profession.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: At the campus level, more than two-thirds of Scholars mentor colleagues about assessment or classroom-based research and more than half are involved in campus teaching centers leading workshops on active learning, assessments, and scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Many Scholars serve on committees to revamp the curriculum, bringing attention to student-driven practices amongst peers. At the national level, Scholars lead reform efforts in their disciplinary societies. More than 100 Scholars (1 in 2) have presented their educational research at society meetings, and 46 have published their work in scholarly publications, calling attention to evidenced based teaching raising the caliber of education programs at national meetings. In addition, since 2008 all BSP society partners have offered training in topics such as active learning, investigative laboratories, assessment, and more. These training opportunities are for both current and future faculty. Many partners have developed curriculum guidelines and concept inventories. Scholars participate in other national programs. For example, of the forty biologists selected for the NSF-HHMI-NIH-NIGMS Partnership in Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE) Vision and Change Leadership Program, four are Scholars. All are leading departmental change based on Vision and Change. Another example is the establishment of the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER) by two Biology Scholars. This nascent community has sponsored three conferences since 2011 convening 120-180 biologists annually to share best practices in biology education research. A final example is the role of Scholars in establishing national networks to exchange information on selected topics. At least six proposals supported by the NSF Research Coordination Networks in Undergraduate Biology Education (RCN-UBE) since 2005 are led by Scholars either as principals or members of steering committees.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: The most surprising challenge is the time required for faculty to develop their scholarship in teaching the discipline. Initially we expected Scholars to publish their education research within a year of participating in the research residency. Our data suggest an additional four years are required to complete their research and writing due to (i) time required to conduct science education research especially at smaller institutions where the number of participants is small, (ii) lack of time allowed for biologists to engage in learning/education research relative to their disciplinary research, (iii) lack of institutional infrastructure (e.g., IRBs, libraries and databases, and educational and/or social scientist experts/collaborators) to initiate DBER, and (iv) lower priority amongst all faculty responsibilities due to reward policies. A second unexpected challenge is the preference among Scholars to contribute first to their institution and then to their profession. After Scholars participate in BSP, most use their new knowledge and skills to mentor other faculty or serve on departmental and/or institutional curriculum and assessment committees. Few advance to working with their professional societies. In retrospect, this finding should not be surprising as 25% of Scholars indicate no formal affiliation with a professional society when initially accepted into the BSP residency.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The BSP leverages regular professional society venues (conferences, publications, membership, etc.) to disseminate information; all 12 society partners disseminate information to their respective communities. In addition to incremental changes associated with Biology Scholars and V&C, I have witnessed significant changes with regard to advancing effective and scholarly teaching during the previous two decades as education director for the American Society for Microbiology. First, since 2000, many life sciences societies have dedicated funds for professional staff to manage society-wide education, ensuring viable and sustained programs and services. Second, societies regularly feature education at their annual conferences, raising awareness, visibility and prominence nationally. Some societies sponsor plenary education sessions or subsidize education-only meetings and workshops. Third, societies welcome education papers in their publications, expanding their journals’ scope beyond narrowly focused research topics to more broadly focused education papers. Some dedicate societal resources for education journals. Fourth, all societies encourage educators to be active members.

Acknowledgements: The Biology Scholars Program recognizes its steering committee, national advisors, society partners, leaders, facilitators, ambassadors, staff and most importantly, the Biology Scholars who continuously give back to the community developing and leading peers and future faculty into evidence-based teaching. In addition, the Program recognizes the National Science Foundation (grant # DUE-1022542) and the American Society for Microbiology.