Vision and Change and the Improvement of General Education Life Science Courses

Gordon Uno
University of Oklahoma

Why don’t more STEM faculty implement what the science education community has repeatedly reported works (is effective) in the undergraduate classroom? What is the unified message from the science education community to science faculty about how to teach and help students learn—that can be understood by all their colleagues? How can we get more science faculty to improve their courses? On what skills and content should Biology faculty focus as they prepare to teach their classes? The IGELS (Improvement of General Education Life Science courses) project is in the first of three years of funding investigating the impact, if any, of “Vision and Change” (V&C, 2009) in general education (non-major) life science/biology courses across the U.S. The project’s major goals include: 1) surveying large numbers of current instructors of GELS courses to determine the level of their knowledge and implementation of the V&C principles; 2) using the collected information to plan tailored professional development and mentoring activities for GELS faculty and to identify resources that best help them use evidence-based, active learning strategies that implement relevant aspects of the V&C documents; 3) expanding the activities of the national IGELS network, a coalition of individuals, organizations, and societies, to revise non-majors’ life science courses, to craft appropriate V&C student outcomes for GELS students, and to assist faculty teaching GELS courses; and 4) identifying or modifying useful existing curricular materials and developing a framework of core skills and limited essential concepts for all GELS students to promote their scientific literacy. We are planning regional professional development workshops for GELS faculty that is effective, impactful, and on-going while using V&C as an organizing reference and creating a new model of scientific literacy and an instructional model to guide faculty in planning their courses.