Models for Change at the University of Wisconsin - Madison

Return to search results | New search

Title of Abstract: Models for Change at the University of Wisconsin - Madison

Name of Author: Janet Branchaw
Author Company or Institution: University of Wisconsin - Madison
Author Title: Interim Director
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses
Course Levels: All Levels
Approaches: Mixed Approach
Keywords: freshman seminar, undergraduate research, teaching assistants, pre-faculty and faculty professional development, post-docs

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Sarah Miller, University of Wisconsin-Madison Christopher Olsen, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: At the University of Wisconsin-Madison we using a multi-pronged approach to build model programs and courses for students, pre-faculty (graduate students and post-docs) and faculty to enable and support change in undergraduate biology education. Our goal is to integrate the Vision and Change recommendations into interventions that directly impact students and into interventions that provide teaching professional development for the pre-faculty and faculty members who teach the students.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: To directly and immediately impact undergraduate students, we have developed classroom and program-based interventions that integrate the core biological sciences concepts and competencies outlined in Vision and Change. These include a first-year seminar course, Exploring Biology, and a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, the Integrated Biological Sciences Summer Research Program (IBS-SRP). Several professional development interventions have been developed to support pre-faculty and faculty/staff instructors to address the Vision and Change recommendations, including a just-in-time training course for Biology Teaching Assistants, Scientific Teaching, and two programs that support the pre-faculty and faculty instructors of the Exploring Biology course, the HHMI Teaching and Faculty Fellows programs. In addition, we have developed a post-doc program designed to empower the next generation of faculty to make change, the Scientific Teaching Post-Doc Program. Each of these interventions is outlined in more detail below. The UW-Madison’s Institute for Biology Education (IBE) is partnering with biology faculty and instructional staff across our campus to coordinate these efforts, with funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Science Foundation. The Institute is part of the Provost’s Office, which provides institutional support for these initiatives.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: We survey course and program participants to gather self-assessments of changes in their knowledge and attitudes about the teaching and learning of biology. In the long-term we aim to systematically measure student learning gains in the Vision and Change core concepts and competencies as they progress through their undergraduate careers and we aim to monitor the implementation of scientific teaching strategies by the alumni of the professional development programs.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Our efforts have established a first-year biology seminar that establishes a framework for learning as students enter their introductory biology course. (Students at UW-Madison typically take introductory biology in their sophomore year.) The undergraduate course and research program have impacted hundreds of students over the past 4 years, while the pre-faculty and faculty professional development programs have impacted approximately 60 graduate students and post-docs and 15 faculty members directly and hundreds of faculty as undergraduate research mentors.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: The greatest challenge we have encountered in the projects is finding ways to measure student learning of the core concepts, which are very broad and difficult to assess. We (and others) are trying to develop assessment tools that can be used to measure these outcomes. Ideally, the broader community will develop standardized measures that will allow nation-wide assessment.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The teaching professional development programs are adaptations of the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching, which has been nationally disseminated through the publication of the Scientific Teaching book. We plan to disseminate the Exploring Biology course model through a publication outlining the impact of the course and through an instructors manual. The summer undergraduate research program Vision and Change framework will be disseminated at the REU PI meeting in April 2014 and through a publication documenting the impact of the program.

Acknowledgements: Funding was provided for these projects by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Science Foundation and the University of Wisconsin - Madison. In addition to the authors, several other individuals contributed to the development of these programs, including: Jo Handelsman, Kristin Jenkins, Jenny Frederick, Amber Smith, William Lipske, Teresa Balser, Lucas Moyer-Horner and David Wassarman