The following are the handouts and overhead slides used by Hal White 30 March 1999 at the "Best Practices Workshop" which was part of the symposium on "New Integrations of Research, Scholarship, and Undergraduate Education" held at the University of Michigan. Slides for Deborah Allen's section, Part II, on peer tutors are posted at a separate site.

Undergraduate Research and Problem-Based Learning

- The University of Delaware Story

Harold B. White, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Deborah A. Allen, Department of Biological Sciences

Joan Bennett, Undergraduate Research Program & Department of English

New Integrations Workshop - University of Michigan

Tuesday, 30 March 1999

Undergraduate Research and Problem-Based Learning - The University of Delaware Story

Harold B. White, III, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Deborah E. Allen, Department of Biological Sciences

Joan Bennett, Undergraduate Research Program and Department of English

University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716

ABSTRACT: The University of Delaware is a mid-sized Carnegie Research II University. Major institutional grants to the University of Delaware from NSF (RAIRE and Institution-Wide Reform), FIPSE, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have recognized and supported ongoing reform in education that center on undergraduate research experiences and/or adoption of problem-based instruction throughout the curriculum. This year, the university received a Certificate of Excellence from the Hesburgh Award competition for its faculty development efforts in transforming undergraduate education.

Undergraduate research has a long-standing tradition at the University of Delaware. About 63% of the entire faculty and over 90% of the Sciences and Engineering faculty involve undergraduate students in their scholarship. Some 500 undergraduates conduct research each year. In Chemistry and Biochemistry, for example, 85% of majors graduate with at least one, and often more, laboratory research experiences. The University ranks 11th nationally in BS graduates who subsequently received doctorates in Chemistry between 1987 and 1996. The university, external grants, and various local benefactors provide funds to pay students during the summer on a competitive basis. The Undergraduate Research Office coordinates the effort of evaluating proposals, serves as a match-maker, and strongly promotes undergraduate research theses across the curriculum.

Not every student can have an intensive research experience with a faculty member; however, the habits of mind associated with a research experience can permeate the curriculum. Within the United States, the University of Delaware has pioneered the use of problem-based learning (PBL) in undergraduate instruction. In this intensive cooperative-learning approach to education, complex problems rooted in real-world situations serve to motivate students to discover important concepts for themselves. Working in small groups, students learn to analyze problems, identify and find needed information, share their research, and come to closure. The instructor provides guidance but does considerably less lecturing during class time than in the past. The Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education, a faculty-run faculty-development program, helps break the instructional cycle of "teaching as we were taught," in an environment of administrative support.

Looking to the teachers and instruction of the future, many PBL courses involve undergraduates, who have prior PBL experience, as peer tutors. Tutors facilitate group processes in larger introductory courses where one faculty member must oversee many student groups simultaneously during "lecture time." A course in tutorial methods of instruction provides pedagogical grounding for tutors. Few of the tutors are education majors but many of express interest in someday becoming a teacher.

Undergraduate Education Reform at the University of Delaware Annotated List of Web-Sites


Research-Based Education: A Template for Promoting Discovery Learning on Today's College Campuses. Describes the NSF - Recognition Award for the Integration of Research and Education (RAIRE) to the University of Delaware in 1997. Contains links to the proposal, the Faculty Advisory Board, and a press release on the award.


University of Delaware Undergraduate Research Program. Provides information to students on getting started with undergraduate research, faculty research projects, financial resources, policies and procedures, research abroad, the senior thesis program, graduate school, alumni news, and the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.


Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education (ITUE) An extensive resource for University of Delaware faculty involved in the NSF-sponsored Institution-wide reform project. Included are lists of faculty ITUE Fellows with links to their home pages and their course web-sites, ITUE faculty development programs, and archives of past activities.


Problem-Based Learning (PBL) The University of Delaware has implemented problem-based learning throughout the curriculum beginning with its first NSF grant on PBL in 1994. This site provides links to articles on PBL, Internet sites on PBL, University of Delaware PBL courses and syllabi, and sample problems.


1999 Theodore M. Hesburgh Certificate of Excellence Describes the history of faculty-run faculty development program that evolved out of the PBL and ITUE efforts above. The Hesburgh award and several Certificates of Excellence are given each year by TIAA/CREF for noteworthy faculty development projects. ..../chem/white/teaching/SciEdGrants/HHMI.html Stimulating Attitudes of Inquiry This site describes the Howard Hughes Medical Institutes grant for Undergraduate Biological Sciences Education which funds undergraduate research, provides equipment for undergraduate teaching laboratories, and supports under-represented minority students in the biomedical sciences.


Introduction to Biochemistry CHEM-342 is a required course for sophomore biochemistry majors that introduces students to the research literature on hemoglobin. The course web-site includes the syllabus, course schedule, assignments, past examinations, and articles in the course reader.

Tutorial Methods of Instruction Syllabus for a course designed to help peer tutors in PBL courses. This is supported in part by a FIPSE grant.

List prepared by H. B. White 3-99

The University of Delaware

Educational Reform at the University of Delaware

Recent Grants, Awards, and Honors

1994-1997 NSF - DUE "Problem-Based Learning in Introductory Science Across Disciplines"

1996-1999 FIPSE - "Multilayered Learning Program for Problem-Based Learning Classrooms"

1997-1999 NSF - Institution-Wide Reform "Catalysts for Change: Foundation Courses and Instructional Innovation"

1997-2000 NSF - RAIRE "Research-Based Education: A Template for Promoting Discovery-Based Learning on Today's College Campuses"

1998-2002 HHMI Undergraduate Biological Science Education "Stimulating Attitudes of Inquiry"

1998- Pew Charitable Trusts - "Problem-Based Learning"

1999 Theodore M. Hesburgh Certificate of Excellence

University of Delaware

Undergraduate Research Program (URP)

(established 1980)

University of Delaware

RAIRE Implementation

Undergraduate Research Program (URP)

URP Documentation: Full-Scale Scholarly Evaluation

University of Delaware

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Undergraduate Program and Research

What are the Common Features

of a Problem-based Approach to Learning?


Instructor: Hal White, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Delaware.

Students Served: 20 - 35 Sophomore Biochemistry Majors (Required course).

Meeting Time: MWF 8 - 8:50 a. m., Spring Semesters in a PBL classroom.

Course Description: 3 credits, no laboratory. Heterogeneous groups of 4 students, guided by upperclass tutors, discuss and work to understand about ten classic articles on hemoglobin and sickle cell anemia. The articles are presented in historical context to show the development of our scientific understanding of protein structure and genetic disease. Assignments and examinations emphasize construction of written and diagrammatic models based on experimental evidence. Instructor serves to monitor progress, supervise tutors, present demonstrations, and lead whole class discussions to summarize each article.


1970's Course for non-science majors based on Herman Epstein's model.

1989 Modified course initiated as part of a new BS Biochemistry curriculum.

1993 Problem-Based Learning format introduced.

1996 Undergraduate Tutors used for the first time.



Student Perceptions of What Is Important in a PBL Course and

How a PBL Course Differs from Typical Science Courses

A. Consider the following items and rate them with respect to how important they are for success in CHEM-342, Introduction to Biochemistry.

(1 = Extremely Important 5 = Not Important) N = 108 out of 111; 1995 to 1998.


Mean ± Std. Dev. Question B
1. Personal Initiative 1.56 ± 0.64 38%
2. Library Research Skills 1.97 ± 0.83 56%
3. Taking Notes in Class 3.11 ± 0.98 3%
4. Writing Skills 1.93 ± 0.85 46%
5. Collaboration with Classmates 1.56 ± 0.81 72%
6. Oral Communication Skills 1.61 ± 0.77 65%
7. Prior Knowledge 2.93 ± 1.01 11%
8. Memorization 4.06 ± 0.96 1%
9. Learning New Information 1.70 ± 0.83 16%
10. Problem Solving Skills 1.74 ± 0.92 42%
11. Conceptualization 1.50 ± 0.69 44%

B. Consider the items in Question A again in relation to other science courses. Circle those items which, in your experience, are more important in CHEM-342 than in most other science courses you have taken.

Note: Surveys conducted during the final week of the semester.

Prepared 2 April 1999, by Harold B. White, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19716