Dartmouth College is awarded a grant to fund a workshop in support of the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education (PULSE) initiative. The PULSE partners hope to transform undergraduate life science education through a variety of national efforts to help implement recommendations made in the 2011 Vision and Change report. One outcome from this effort was the announcement of 40 Vision and Change Leadership Fellows in September, 2012.
The Vision and Change Leadership Fellows are exploring ways to encourage departments to reward faculty member's efforts to improve undergraduate life sciences education. These efforts to improve teaching should increase student learning, should increase retention rates for students in the life sciences, and should prepare all students to be more curious and scientifically literate citizens.
The current award is to fund a workshop for eleven of the Fellows who are part of the ?Taking the Pulse? working group. The working group plans to help departments use existing assessment evidence and design new tools to evaluate progress in departmental efforts to implement Vision and Change recommendations. This working group is developing a recognition or certification system for undergraduate biology departments that have adopted recommendations in the Vision and Change Report. The workshop organizers plan to develop specific criteria of what a future "transformed" department might look like; design an accreditation model for certification; assemble a rubric for certification; and begin to share the products of this workshop with the life sciences community, primarily via the www.pulsecommunity.org website.
For the United States to maintain its leading position as a country of scientific innovation,the approach to undergraduate biology education needs fundamental change. Compared to other developed countries, a smaller percentage of students receive degrees in biology. Retention rates in biology, particularly for students from groups traditionally underrepresented in science, are very low. At present, teaching strategies that are effective at overcoming disengagement and student loss are well documented. Student-centered classrooms and scientific teaching practices enhance student learning and reduces the achievement gap of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Despite the widespread acceptance that these teaching strategies and approaches are effective, they have not been widely adopted. Thus, there remains a substantial need to develop and implement effective strategies for motivating systemic educational change. A coherent framework for change in biology undergraduate education was proposed in the 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science report "Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action." In 2012, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) founded the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE) to catalyze implementation of the Vision and Change report across all institutions of higher education, and recruited and appointed 40 life sciences faculty as Vision and Change Leadership Fellows to develop strategies to promote systemic changes in life science education. The PULSE initiative is designed to catalyze change primarily at the departmental and institutional level. The major focus of PULSE is to initiate and implement new strategies to assist departments and institutions to move toward a shared vision to effect curricular transformation. One of the projects to emerge from the PULSE initiative is development of a certification program for life sciences departments based on adoption of the principles and recommendations of the Vision and Change report. The "certification" group proposed to develop a set of detailed rubrics to evaluate progress in departmental and institutional efforts to implement Vision and Change principles. This grant funded a 1.5 day workshop for 11 PULSE Vision and Change Leadership Fellows to meet in person to develop and draft these rubrics. By the conclusion of the meeting, we had a rough draft of the rubrics that consisted of about 70 specific criteria in 5 broad areas: curriculum alignment, assessment, faculty practice/faculty support, infrastructure, and climate for change. We also discussed a "next steps" plan for how we would refine the rubrics, do some pilot testing, and release them to the community. The PULSE Vision & Change rubrics were released to the community in July 2013 via the pulsecommunity.org website. The rubrics are presently serving as the basis for a pilot certification program for life sciences departments.