WUSTL faculty member part of national initiative to change undergraduate education in biology

40 fellows will help reform how life sciences are taught in post-secondary institutions

The Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE) announced Sept. 7 that Kathryn Miller, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been selected as one of 40 Vision and Change Leadership Fellows. Over the next year, the Vision and Change Leadership Fellows will consider and then recommend models for improving undergraduate life-sciences education.

The PULSE program is a joint initiative of the National
Science Foundation (NSF), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and
the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“I’m really excited about bringing a broader audience into the discussion about teaching and and ways to make teaching more effective,” Miller says.

Her own involvement with innovative teaching grew out of her disappointment with traditional lecture classes, she says. “I used to craft my lectures to be wonderful. I’d put all the latest things in them and deliver them enthusiastically and then I’d think, ‘You know what? They’re not getting it.’

“Their responses weren’t what I imagined they would be if they really understood the material. And, I thought, ‘There’s got to be a way to get them to get them to learn better.’

“There are better ways, but I didn’t know what they were because I was never taught them. I had to learn them from The Teaching Center, from workshops and from other experiences that I’ve sought out for myself. It doesn’t have to be that hard,” she says, “and it’s now my job to make sure it is easier for others.”

http://youtu.be/4nhrvnOtbp8In this video, Miller talks about the use of technology to engage students and make them more responsible for their own learning. Other videos about innovative teaching techniques can be found at The Teaching Center’s website (http://teachingcenter.wustl.edu/).

In 2006, the NSF initiated a multi-year conversation with the scientific community, with assistance from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. That dialogue, which was co-funded by NIH and HHMI, generated the 2011 report, “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action.


The report recognized that a 21st-century education requires changes to how biology is taught, how academic departments support faculty and how curricular decisions are made.

 To foster this widespread systemic change, NSF, HHMI and NIH launched the PULSE program. Supporting the effort are Knowinnovation Inc. and the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

In May, PULSE announced a national competition to identify Vision and Change Leadership Fellows. The 40 fellows selected from a field of 250 applicants will produce an implementation framework describing strategies for change.

Program organizers stress that they welcome the participation of the breadth of the post-secondary life sciences community.

A list of the Vision and Change Leadership Fellows is available at pulsecommunity.org. The implementation framework also will be available on the PULSE website, where other life scientists may review and enrich it via dialog with the PULSE online colleague community.