MCU Faculty Team to Participate in Seminar on Science Pedagogy

Marymount California University Faculty Team Selected to Participate in Seminar on Science Pedagogy

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CA – Marymount California University is pleased to announce that a team from the university has been selected as one of ten teams from a competitive, national pool of applicants to participate in a new program designed to prepare faculty members to adopt active learning methods proven to be successful in teaching science. The summer 2019 seminar is offered by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and is supported by a $300,000 grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation.

Marymount California University MCU) professors John Alexander, Silvana Constantinescu, Kevin Barnese and Monica Westley will learn to implement new methods based on the research findings of Stanford University professor of physics and Nobel laureate Carl E. Wieman. These methods are designed to improve teaching effectiveness and student learning in biology, chemistry, and physics courses.

“Our faculty use a hands-on, research-based approach to teaching science. This is in line with our university-wide commitment to real-world learning,” commented Marymount California University Provost Dr. Ariane Schauer. “The approach is all about engaging student learning and curiosity early, while developing students’ professional skills, collaboration and critical thinking. For example, undergraduates earning their B.S. in Biology at MCU create new pharmaceutical compounds in their chemistry classes and test them in subsequent biology classes. Along the way, they develop reliable lab research skills and habits.  The CIC grant reinforces MCU’s approach and will contribute to national data on science pedagogy.”

Although small colleges have long been recognized for the high percentages of their science majors who complete undergraduate degrees, earn advanced degrees, and enter STEM careers, this seminar marks the first systematic attempt to promote this powerful pedagogy among faculty members at smaller independent colleges and universities. Wieman provided the inspiration for and has been the guiding force in developing the seminars, recommending the facilitators, providing the syllabus, and shaping the process.

CIC President Richard Ekman commented, “The ability to think like a scientist is critical for all students, not just those who will major in STEM or plan to pursue an advanced degree. Systematic change is needed to create the science-literate population needed to understand research-based science policy, which affects all aspects of today’s society.”

Despite numerous studies that have demonstrated improved effectiveness if instruction were changed from traditional lectures to more effective, active learning methods—in the sciences as in other fields—research indicates that the lecture is still the default method for many faculty members.

Each institution will support a team of four faculty members from no more than two disciplines (biology, chemistry, or physics), including at least one department or division chair or dean. The team will receive intensive training that will prepare them to implement and assess research-based active learning methods in introductory courses in their departments when they return to campus.

The first seminar will take place July 15–19, 2019, at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. After the seminar, college faculty members will participate in webinars, as well as conference calls and a site visit for each institution.