The fastest growing sub-disciplinary group within the emerging field of science faculty with education specialties is biology. Yet, these faculty are isolated and fragmented across the sub-disciplines of biology, and there is no one meeting or society where biology faculty come together to exchange ideas, set research agendas, and build collaborations. We will begin to address this issue by organizing a workshop to lay the groundwork for establishing a leadership, vision and network to promote and maintain scholarly work in biology. We will identify the major advances in biology education research in the past 5-10 years, and determine the major research questions of the field, how to support and advance high quality and rigorous hypothesis-driven research, and how best to learn from the work of our colleagues in STEM education research. The outcomes of this meeting will be a paper documenting the proceedings, a wiki to facilitate networking, and a draft of a full RCN-UBE proposal to create a new society, Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research, SABER.

Intellectual Merit: The efforts in the field of biology education research are not as focused as similar research efforts in other science disciplines. We lack a common database (such as PubMed) where our research findings and those of the learning sciences are reported, which leads to duplication of effort and lack of a common foundational knowledge. This workshop will address these and other infrastructural issues as well as set an agenda for future biology education research.

Broader Impact: Coordination of research efforts will foster faster advances in how college student learn biology, which will benefit current and future undergraduates, particularly underrepresented minorities, who leave the basic and life sciences at a much greater rate than other college disciplines. By advancing our understanding of how best to help students learn biology, we may be able to stem this loss of talent in biology.

This project is supported jointly by the Biological Sciences Directorate and the Division of Undergraduate Education.

Project Report

In February 2010, we received a RCN-UBE incubator grant that allowed us to bring together a core group of interested BER faculty for the purpose of identifying the needs of the nascent BER community and creating strategies to address them. The major outcome of the meeting was an overwhelming consensus to create a new society dedicated to facilitating interactions and collaborations among BER faculty and to convene a national meeting of BERs to provide a forum for the communication of research findings and the exchange of ideas. The new Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER) was officially incorporated in November of 2010 and there are over 250 SABER members. Members come from 32 different states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, four foreign countries, 72 different sub-disciplines of Biology and 141 different institutions ranging from community colleges to medical schools, to professional societies and book companies.The first national meeting of SABER was held July 29-31, 2011 at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 160 attended, 42 talks and over 50 posters were presented. The second annual meeting of SABER will convene July 12, 2012 at University of Minnesota. The new society was successful in gaining an NSF grant to help maintain the group while business plans and additional funding is sought. The new grant will fund efforts to create reviews of critical discipline based education research, research method update meetings, and fund travel to the national meeting for post-docs and graduate students. SABER is dedicated to generating the data to support effective evidence based teaching methods that will enhance student learning in Biology and retain a more diverse body of students in the discipline.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)
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Charles Sullivan
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University of Washington
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