Students arrived on the University of La Verne campus Monday toting backpacks and hot coffee, some still sleepy-eyed from months of summer relaxation and others raring to go for the first day of t...
Dr. Christine Broussard’s work to teach students to think like scientists and design their own experiments earns her an invitation to a very exclusive conference.
Dr. Christine Broussard is constantly striving to give her students the best science education possible at the University of La Verne.
Broussard, a professor of biology, was recently invited to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference, Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: Chronicling the Changes, August 28-30, 2013 in Washington, D.C., based on work she has been doing with her students.
The Vision and Change report, which was first released two years ago, was a comprehensive call to action from the AAAS to those in STEM fields to determine how to best teach students.
“My selection was based on work I have been doing integrating research immersion experiences into the undergraduate biology curriculum,” Broussard said. “The educational innovation I created, DYOE (Design Your Own Experiment), allows students to develop critical thinking skills, knowledge in context, and scientific competency.”
Broussard’s current project addresses how to use approaches that focus on science literacy to complement the design your own experiment (DYOE) approach in order to obtain desired student outcomes, including mastery of scientific inquiry and reasoning skills (SIRS), as well as increased participation, retention and success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
The invitation-only conference is the second annual conference on Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology and will include a series of on-line activities such as submission of abstracts describing efforts and outcomes to promote change in undergraduate biology education and an on-line survey to be conducted later in spring 2014. Partners of the conference include the National Science Foundation (NSF), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI); the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) Division of Training, Workforce Development and Diversity (TWD); and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Participants of the conference will share and learn about innovative strategies that biological sciences departments, faculty, and societies have implemented, as a result of the Vision and Change initiative and learn about ways to further improve education in STEM fields of study.
Broussard and her colleagues in the La Verne science department are well aware of the news about the poor performance of U.S. students in Science and Math.
“The calls for reform of STEM education to improve our ranking and the national economy have stirred an ongoing debate in the STEM community,” Broussard said. “We are scientists; why aren’t we approaching science education with the same process, precision, and pursuit of evidence we apply to our disciplines? That is what my science education practice and research has been focused on, developing pedagogical approaches that model how science works, and collecting data to determine if the approaches are effective for our students.”
Through their teaching methods, Broussard and her colleagues have determined that integrating scientific inquiry and reasoning into the biology curriculum does positively affect student outcomes in terms of performance, graduation rates, and acceptance into graduate/professional schools.
“The La Verne Experience in STEM means that our graduates emerge better prepared for the challenges of the 21st century,” Broussard said.
One of the most effective tools for teaching at La Verne is the DYOE labs that Broussard created and implemented into the curriculum.
“These labs give students the experience of being a scientist, and addressing important questions we face today, like ‘How do environmental chemicals (that we come into contact with on a daily basis) affect cells and developing embryos?’” Broussard said.
Because of the success with this approach, and the more recent integration of DYOE with science literacy and peer-critiquing, pioneered on La Verne’s campus by Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Kathleen Weaver, La Verne was recently awarded another National Science Foundation (NSF) grant.
“The NSF and AAAS have given us the opportunity at the Vision and Change meeting in August to share the journey we undertook starting in 2003 to innovate and optimize the learning experience our students have in the sciences at the University of La Verne,” Broussard said. “The goal of the meeting is to find out what we and others have done to effectively reform science education and to create a blueprint for schools across the nation to follow to achieve the same results. It is quite an honor to represent our biology program and to share the many innovations, not just my own, we have employed to give our students The La Verne Advantage in their STEM education.”