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Journal, Reflections

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February 12, 2009

I wanted to write something on Darwin Day (and Lincoln's Birthday).  

We had a nice seminar in our Center for Research in College Science Teaching and Learning this week.  Jennifer Lewis from the University of South Florida was on the MSU campus and told us about her work reforming undergraduate general chemistry using a POGIL/PLTL hybrid model.  My favorite part of this work is that she is employing a rigorous statistical approach to her data analysis.  Her work also points out the importance of getting students to think, process and explain their thoughts to others.  This reflects back on the comments from Jan. 12th on collaborative/cooperative learning, as she appears to be using groups very effectively.

Last night I moderated a Panel discussion on the topic, "Perspectives on Darwin and God: A Civil Discussion".   Four of my Lyman Briggs College colleagues stuck their necks out by exposing their religious beliefs to a group of students, in the context of trying to understand the relationship of religion and evolutionary theory.  It's really frustrating to see students so strongly adhere to religious beliefs that contradict established facts.  It's kind of like having someone have a flat earth as a basic tenet of their religion.  At the same time, we have to be aware that we are asking people to re-examine their religious beliefs, which some might interpret as changing a person's religion.  In some places in the world, you can be jailed (or worse) for this activity.  So this is where Lincoln comes into play, with his words, "with malice towards none, with charity towards all...".  We need to step lightly and respect the persons with whom we interact.  We are asking a lot of someone, to change their relationship with God.  At the same time, it's also really important to have religious beliefs, which deal with things that we can't know, but take on faith, that are consistent with things that we do know, based on sound scientific observation and investigation.  

January 12, 2009

I keep asking people to come up with a name for the "Annual Review (of SoTL)" and to come up with two or three critical chapters that should be included in Vol. 1, along with the authors of the chapters.  This is apparently a difficult challenge.

It looks like a strong case can be made for "Cooperative Learning" as a theory-rich research area in SoTL, as well as for "Exams as Assessment: To MC or Not To MC".  In the latter case, Ross Nehm had a nice paper with Irvin Sam Schonfeld in the Journal of Research of Science Teaching in 2008, entitled, "Measuring Knowledge of Natural Selection: A Comparison of the CINS, an Open-Response Instrument, and an Oral Interview", while for Cooperative Learning, Eli Meir, in his SimBiotic Software blog entry entitled, "Group Theory" (see, reflects on optimal group sizes in cooperative learning groups in biology lab classes, and what kind of research is being done on the topic.  I wonder about the answer to the group size question, too.  

Of course, for Active and Collaborative Learning, Karl Smith (U. of Mn) comes to mind.

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