UO is host to West Coast summer institute on science teaching

Fifty-nine science educators from 20 institutions are on the UO campus this week for five days of workshops in the annual West Coast National Academies Summer Institute on Scientific Teaching.

During the sessions, participants will learn the latest approaches in how to use active learning tools to engage undergraduate students in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"It is noteworthy that the University of Oregon is hosting this event because the host institutions are places that are recognized for the innovative work they are doing in science education reform," said Elly Vandegrift, associate director of the UO's science literacy program. "We are now part of an elite group of host institutions for a program that has demonstrated how high-quality professional development of teaching can positively impact students studying science."

Vandegrift and Clarissa Dirks, a biologist at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, are co-directors of the weeklong sessions. Dirks also co-chairs the executive committee of the National Academies Scientific Teaching Alliance that supports six annual regional workshops each year. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute and National Academies founded the summer institutes in 2004.

The institutes bring together teams of science educators, with each participant helping develop instructional materials designed to teach scientific thinking and concepts at the introductory level. In the academic year following the institutes, participants test the materials in their own introductory courses. A nationwide experiment assesses the impact on faculty teaching and student learning.

The West Coast summer institute now meeting at the UO serves Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Vandegrift and Sierra Dawson, program director of graduate studies in athletic training in the Department of Human Physiology, were the first UO participants in one of the summer institutes as National Academies Education Fellows in 2013-2014. At the close of this week's institute, the UO will have had 45 graduate students, postdocs and faculty who have participated and been named National Academies Education Fellows.