Two professors named National Academies Education Fellows in the Sciences

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Valerie Purdie-Vaughns CC’93, associate professor of psychology, and Brent Stockwell, professor of biological sciences and chemistry, have been named National Academies Education Fellows in the Sciences for the 2014-2015 academic year. They were chosen based on their selection to and participation in the 2014 National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Science that was held from June 15 to 20, at Harvard.

The Summer Institute, a five-day program of discussions, demonstrations and workshops, brought college and university faculty together to  explore how to utilize current research on best pedagogical practices in order to actively engage students in the ways that scientists think. The program is the result of a recommendation from the 2003 National Research Council report, “Bio2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists,” which called for programs to involve faculty at research-intensive institutions in developing teaching methods based on emerging evidence about how people learn.

"There is a wealth of evidence on what methods are most effective for teaching, and the workshop was focused on teaching participating faculty how to implement these evidence-based teaching strategies,” Stockwell said. “By implementing these innovative, dynamic and engaging new methods, we will be able to expand the accessibility of the frontiers of scholarship to students in all disciplines, including the sciences. We will also create the next generation of leaders in all fields.”

During the programs, teams from 19 colleges and universities from across the Northeast assembled at Harvard for five days of presentations, discussions, intensive group work and other activities, all focused on enhancing undergraduate education through active learning, assessment and teaching that addresses the needs of students with different backgrounds, learning styles and abilities.

Each university team worked with other teams to develop a “teachable tidbit,” that they could implement in a course during the academic year — and to assess whether students would learn from that material. Each team also pledged to share ideas about scientific teaching with graduate students, postdocs and faculty during the coming year.

“By sending this team to the National Academies Summer Institute, your institution is at the forefront of improvement of undergraduate education that is so essential for preparing both future scientists and scientifically literate citizens,” Barbara A. Schaal, chair of the Division of Earth and Life Sciences at the National Research Council, wrote in a letter to Columbia.

“I hope that by leading this effort at Columbia, we will continue to be the premier institution for 21st century education,” Stockwell added.