Long Term Trans-disciplinary Project-Based Instruction in Biology and Physics
This novel project is developing robust links between multiple courses in biology to the general physics for biology majors' course. Aspects of this project include creating several large scale, open ended, project-based investigations that revisit physical and biological concepts multiple times in different courses. These investigations are integrating biology into physics courses and vice versa, enabling biology majors to see their curriculum as a unified whole. Furthermore, this project is providing measureable outcomes quantifying (i) performance on standard disciplinary measures, (ii) attitudes toward required courses, (iii) understanding physics and biology in an integrated manner, and (iv) transfer of knowledge between courses and disciplines. The project is implementing course reform that includes sustainability and dissemination.
The intellectual merit of this proposal stems from a reform of pedagogy, which turns a collection of independent courses in different departments into a unified whole. This transformation is being accomplished in a novel way by explicitly developing expert skills over an extended period of time using real and engaging phenomena.
Broader Impacts resulting from this project include improved STEM training for women of African descent because Spelman College is an historically black women's college. Further, this project is contributing to a paradigm shift in undergraduate education by weaving together strands of research in Learning Sciences and Physics Education Research. Plans are in place for dissemination of project outcomes via conferences and publications in both biology and physics education journals as well as in the broader education research community.