The University of Delaware's Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Education Program will co-sponsor presentations by two distinguished science educators this semester. These speakers intend to promote and provoke interdisciplinary discussion about teaching and learning issues in undergraduate science education. Faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and  high school teachers are encouraged to attend. Our first visitor will be John Wright from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His article with others from UWisc in the Journal of Chemical Education [75(8) 986-992 (1998] on "A Novel Startegy for Assessing the Effects of Curriculum Reform on Student Competence" generated lots of discussion and controversy. Deanna Raineri, our other speaker this semester, has pioneered a the use of computer simulations to augment and enhance, rather than replace, laboratory work.

Professor John C. Wright,
Department of Chemistry
University of Wisconsin-Madison,
April 12, 2002

Seminar:  "Active Learning Teaching Methods-What They Are and Are They Worth The Effort?"
4:00 PM, Friday, April 12, 2002
214 Brown Laboratory
Refreshments at 3:45 PM in 214 Brown Laboratory

Abstract: New courses have been developed in analytical and physical chemistry that are based on using active learning methods.  The courses use a student board of directors, open-ended laboratories, group projects, research paper discussions, focus questions, workshops, cooperative examinations, traditional examinations, and computer modeling exercises.  Student enthusiasm is clearly high and student effort is even higher.  In order to determine whether there is also a significant change in actual student competence, a coordinated assessment strategy was developed to compare the new course with a traditional course.  The sociology that controls how the learning takes place in the course was defined using the qualitative research techniques of anthropology.  The competence of the students was determined by oral discussions with external faculty experts.  The results showed clearly that students who learn in an active learning environment show improved competence.  They suggest that we can dramatically improve education at all levels by adopting a new set of traditions that characterize the way that students, faculty, administrators, and the society view these roles and the educational process.  They also suggest the importance of having all university faculty take an active role in defining these new traditions.

Dr. Deanna Raineri
Associate Dean of Instructional Technologies and Information Services, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois

Seminar:  "Virtual Laboratories Enhance Traditional Undergraduate Biology Laboratories"
4:00 PM Monday May 6, 2002
Refreshments at 3:45 PM in 214 Brown Laboratory

Workshop: A hands on workshop will be held in the 116 Pearson Hall computer lab from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Tuesday May 7. Interested faculty and students are welcome.

Abstract: Web-based laboratories have tremendous but largely unexplored potential in the undergraduate biology curriculum.  Laboratories play an important role in all of our biology courses.  However, many essential laboratory techniques are hazardous and/or time-consuming making their use in large classes with inexperienced students impractical.  To address these problems, we have developed Web-based virtual demonstrations of essential biomolecular technologies.  In our virtual laboratories, students use real-life case scenarios to learn how essential biomolecular techniques are used in the fields of medicine (for disease diagnosis) and forensics (to generate genetic fingerprints).  Web-based simulation software is used to make the virtual experiments visually engaging and interactive, requiring decisions and analytical input from the student.

Students still receive the necessary hands-on training in traditional "wet" labs where the emphasis continues to be on methods of data acquisition.  The virtual laboratories, on the other hand, focus on data interpretation and problem solving skills.  In the traditional lab format, students have only 2-3 hours to generate a single set of data and that data is often not ideal. Students use the virtual laboratory environment to generate multiple sets of data.  Thus, our virtual laboratories provide students with the opportunity for repetitive practice in techniques that they would ordinarily use only once in the traditional setting of the teaching laboratory.  The virtual format also allows us to expose students to time-consuming and/or hazardous techniques that they would otherwise not be able to experience.

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Created 1 February 2002, Last up-dated 30 April 2002 by Hal White
Copyright 2002, Harold B. White, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Delaware