Revamping Biology Education
The Summer Institute was created in response to the National Academy of Sciences' Bio2010 report, which concluded that biology faculty needed to become more familiar with the science behind successful teaching and student learning. "We thought there ought to be something similar to Cold Spring Harbor courses for people who are interested in teaching, that deep immersion experience," says Jay Labov, the National Academies' senior advisor for education and communication.
At the same time, Jo Handelsman, who was at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, had proposed a similar training program in her application for the HHMI Professor. "People have a strong tendency to teach the way they were taught," says Handelsman, who moved to Yale University in 2010. "But we know that lectures are the worst way to teach if you care about student learning."
In 2003, Handelsman and Bill Wood at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who co-lead the Summer Institute, brought together top undergraduate science educators and developed the curriculum for a week-long training course. That course was designed to engage participants in methods that show them how to incorporate active-learning techniques into their classes, including interactive projects and discussion groups. They could also see how to continually assess whether students are really learning. The instructors at the Summer Institute use the recommended methods with the participants, which allows them to see how classes should be taught and then spend time developing their own curriculum using those methods.
"It is a way of not just preaching to people," says David J. Asai, director of precollege and undergraduate programs at HHMI, which has spent over $1 million to support the Summer Institute since 2004. "It is saying, 'We are going to teach you some ways
|Contact: Andrea Widener|
Howard Hughes Medical Institute