We Built an Active Learning Class to Teach Students How to Critically Evaluate Health Claims. Did it Work?

by Jeremy Whitson

Dr. Jeremy Whitson at the UW Teaching and Learning Symposium.

The Fall of 2017 was a tumultuous time for public discourse around science in the US. Phrases like “fake news” and “alternative facts” entered the mainstream vernacular as an administration that cared little for truth, accuracy, or ethics took control of the White House. Science deniers began heading key agencies, gag rules were put into place, and researchers across the country feared how their already diminishing funding might be reallocated. Meanwhile, the internet, once conceptualized as the ultimate tool for disseminating information, was proving itself to be the ultimate tool for misinformation. Long dormant diseases began making a resurgence and commercial brands were using the public’s ignorance to push misleading, or even straight up dangerous, products like raw water, anti-aging creams, and juice cleanses.  Continue reading

STEP Writing Retreat

Dear STEP Fellows,

Are you interested in publishing in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning? If so, we encourage you to join us for the first STEP writing retreat, which will be held Friday, August 3rd at UW Bothell from 9am – 3pm in UW2-141  [room 141 in Commons Hall (UW2)].

This will be an opportunity to write reviews or activities that you’ve prepared to submit to peer-reviewed journals like CourseSource or American Biology Teacher (such as Tips, Tricks, and Techniques, e.g., Price 2013). We will also explore other venues, such as Science in the Classroom and our very own STEP blog. You may also want to consider Life Science Teaching Resource, which includes a pretty wide-based and inclusive collection of resources that covers different disciplines of the biological sciences. It also has a guest blog associated with it. National Science Teachers Association offers a variety of resources on excellence on teaching and learning, including informal science education. It has resources for different age groups from K-12  through college level. Human Anatomy and Physiology has other outlets. Two more peer-reviewed resources are Advances in Physiology Education and the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education.

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Managing anxiety in active learning classrooms

by Trisha Sippel

When I was a student, you could usually find me in the middle or back of the classroom. I would be just close enough to see the board, but far enough to inconspicuously blend in with the crowd and avoid being noticed. My early school days were spent hiding out this way while praying my teacher wouldn’t call on me, my face turning red-hot if they did. College was less anxiety producing. Sure, I was getting older and becoming more confident, but mostly I didn’t have to worry as much about being called on in class. Typically, the professor would stand at the front of a large lecture hall without much interaction with the students.

As active learning has gained traction in science classrooms, I have thought a lot about the possible anxiety of some of my students, especially those who are less comfortable speaking up in class, as I was. I could imagine being intimidated by and resistant to the amount of interaction and group work involved with active learning. After implementing these techniques in my own classroom, through the Science Teaching Experience for Postdocs (STEP) program, I clearly see the advantages of this type of learning compared to passive lecturing. Now, I wonder how we can make the active learning classroom a more comfortable place for all of our students.

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UW Teaching and Learning Symposium 2018

STEP was well-represented at the UW Teaching and Learning Symposium on April 17th, 2018. STEP alumni Dr. Eva Ma, Dr. Sarah Morgan, Dr. Suzzanne Mcdermott, Dr. Amy Stone, and Dr. Angela Katsuyama all presented posters about the interactive activities that they had developed with STEP Forward and/or the Pacific Science Center’s Science Communication Fellowship, while Dr. Liz Kwan presented a module that she and her fellow co-instructors had developed for their STEP course. STEP mentors Dr. Salwa Al-Noori, Dr. Becca Price, and Dr. Eva Ma along with Elizabeth McCullough from the Pacific Science Center also presented a poster on our STEP Forward program’s partnership with the Pacific Science Center.

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