The American Society of Plant Biologists is instituting a workshop, to be held at their annual meeting in August of 2011, in order to discuss and formulate plans for the society to respond to an NSF funded report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Vision and Change (V&C) in Undergraduate Education, A Call to Action (scheduled for release February 19). The workshop will engage 200 conferees representing a wide spectrum of institutional types (from community colleges to R1 universities) and plant biology interests (from plant molecular biology and genomics to those interested in ecological interactions between populations). Special efforts are being made to attract faculty from the tribal colleges in the area. The workshop is also being planned to serve as a starting point for identifying: resources for responding to V&C recommendations, gaps in those resources, opportunities to disseminate existing resources, and opportunities to develop new resources to address identified gaps.
The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) is home to an ongoing conversation about how a scientific society can most effectively support its members in high quality undergraduate teaching. The Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education Initiative (http://visionandchange.org/) has set a vision for undergraduate biology education that is based on research on how people learn, and it has outlined a series of recommendations for how to achieve this vision. Through this project, ASPB engaged a national group of plant biologists in taking important steps toward responding to the Vision and Change recommendations. ASPB initiated the project with a workshop at the Plant Biology 2011 conference to gather feedback from members, resulting in a nationally disseminated report on how to put the Vision and Change recommendations into practice. One of the major concerns among conferees was the lack of a defined set of core concepts in plant biology that undergraduates should learn. Conferees reported that the absence of a set of core plant biology concepts resulted in underrepresentation or misrepresentation of plants in undergraduate curricula and misunderstandings about the importance and unique functions of plants and their broader contributions to understanding biology (e.g., plants "donâ€™t do much;" plants are "only important for photosynthesis;" plants are not interesting to study). To respond to this concern, ASPB assembled of a working group to generate a set of core concepts that (1) outlined what undergraduate biology majors should learn about plants, (2) were consistent with themes from Vision and Change and the new K-12 Next Generation Science Standards, (3) were the enduring, big ideas that explained what makes plants distinct from other lineages of organisms and described the essential attributes and life strategies of plants, and (4) were broad and foundational in nature, and could be divided further into multiple sub-concepts or units of knowledge (e.g., learning objectives) that were measurable. The working group authored a set of core concepts and sample learning objectives, which have been vetted by the plant biology community and disseminated nationally. The core concepts are now being used in the development of educational assessments and integrated into a digital repository of undergraduate biology instructional materials that is under development. Another major concern voiced by the ASPB membership during the workshop was the lack of instructional materials in plant biology that align with the Vision and Change recommendations. To address this concern, ASPB established the ASPB Master Educator Program. The individuals selected as Master Educators are receiving financial support from the Society to participate in focused, substantive, and practical professional development with the aim of developing undergraduate plant biology instructional materials that are aligned with the Vision and Change recommendations and the core concepts. In summary, the main outcomes of this project are a workshop report, a set of core concepts and learning objectives, and the ASPB Master Educator Program, all of which will be foundational for changing undergraduate biology education in ways way that align with how people learn. This project also provides a model for how a scientific society can be engaged in putting Vision and Change recommendations into practice, a set of observations and practices that are being presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Change meeting in August 2013.