1st Edition

Teaching Undergraduate Science A Guide to Overcoming Obstacles to Student Learning

By Linda C. Hodges Copyright 2015
    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book is written for all science or engineering faculty who have ever found themselves baffled and frustrated by their undergraduate students’ lack of engagement and learning. The author, an experienced scientist, faculty member, and educational consultant, addresses these issues with the knowledge of faculty interests, constraints, and day-to-day concerns in mind. Drawing from the research on learning, she offers faculty new ways to think about the struggles their science students face. She then provides a range of evidence-based teaching strategies that can make the time faculty spend in the classroom more productive and satisfying.Linda Hodges reviews the various learning problems endemic to teaching science, explains why they are so common and persistent, and presents a digest of key ideas and strategies to address them, based on the research she has undertaken into the literature on the cognitive sciences and education. Recognizing that faculty have different views about teaching, different comfort levels with alternative teaching approaches, and are often pressed for time, Linda Hodges takes these constraints into account by first offering a framework for thinking purposefully about course design and teaching choices, and then providing a range of strategies to address very specific teaching barriers – whether it be students’ motivation, engagement in class, ability to problem solve, their reading comprehension, or laboratory, research or writing skills.Except for the first and last chapters, the other chapters in this book stand on their own (i.e., can be read in any order) and address a specific challenge students have in learning and doing science. Each chapter summarizes the research explaining why students struggle and concludes by offering several teaching options categorized by how easy or difficult they are to implement. Some, for example, can work in a large lecture class without a great expenditure of time; others may require more preparation and a more adventurous approach to teaching. Each strategy is accompanied by a table categorizing its likely impact, how much time it will take in class or out, and how difficult it will be to implement.Like scientific research, teaching works best when faculty start with a goal in mind, plan an approach building on the literature, use well-tested methodologies, and analyze results for future trials. Linda Hodges’ message is that with such intentional thought and a bit of effort faculty can succeed in helping many more students gain exciting new skills and abilities, whether those students are potential scientists or physicians or entrepreneurs. Her book serves as a mini compendium of current research as well as a protocol manual: a readily accessible guide to the literature, the best practices known to date, and a framework for thinking about teaching.

    Foreword Preface Acknowledgements 1. Introduction. Making the Most of the Time We Spend Teaching 2. Helping Students Learn During Class 3. Helping Students Learn From Text 4. Helping Students Learn, and Learn From, Problem Solving 5. Motivating and Helping Students Learn on Their Own 6. Helping Students Learn From Tests and Assignments 7. Helping Students Learn From Laboratory Work and Research 8. Helping Students Learn to Write like Scientists 9. Making Choices About What and How to Teach in Science References About the Author Index


    Linda C. Hodges is Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Director of the Faculty Development Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She publishes and presents widely on a variety of topics in faculty development, engaged student learning, and effective teaching practices. Before relocating to Maryland in 2009, she worked in the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton University for eight years, six as its Director. Her interest in faculty development arose from her 21 years of experience as a tenured faculty member and department chair at two different institutions. Her formal faculty career began in the chemistry department at Kennesaw State College (now University) where she was a recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award. After 12 years she moved to Agnes Scott College to become the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Chemistry. In 1999 she was chosen to participate in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, a Scholars program of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. During her time as a Carnegie Scholar she examined how problem-based learning affected students’ approaches to learning. Through her work in faculty development she continues to explore the specific effects of various active learning formats on student learning. Dr. Hodges holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Kentucky. She earned her B.S. in chemistry in three years from Centre College of Kentucky where she was valedictorian and an elected member of Phi Beta Kappa. Jeanne Narum is founding Director of PKAL, Project Kaleidoscope. Jeanne is focused on building leadership at the institutional and national levels to ensure that American undergraduates have access to robust learning experiences in STEM fields.

    “In recent years, cognitive scientists and educational researchers have teamed to shed light on the process of learning. Linda Hodges has distilled their findings into a concise and well-written guidebook for STEM instructors. Teaching Undergraduate Science offers them a wealth of practical strategies for motivating students, improving their problem-solving, self-directed learning, and communication skills, and assessing their learning. Experienced and new teachers alike can open the book to any randomly chosen page, and they will not fail to find useful and easily applied tips.”

    Richard M. Felder, Hoechst Celanese Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh

    Coauthor of Teaching and Learning STEM: A Practical Guide (Jossey-Bass, 2016)

    "Linda C. Hodges (Director of the Faculty Development Center, University of Maryland, Baltimore County) presents Teaching Undergraduate Science: A Guide to Overcoming Obstacles to Student Learning, a straightforward resource created especially for science and engineering faculty stymied by disengaged and dispirited undergraduate students.

    Hodges offers new methods to better understand the daily struggles that students undergo, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Chapters discuss ways to motivate and help students learn on their own, as well as learn from problem solving, laboratory work, and research; teaching students to write like professional scientists; making choices in what to teach and how to teach it; and much more.

    For example, a common roadblock for teachers who assign science problems in homework or testing is that their students will 'plug and chug', plugging in the first equation that seems appropriate, without thinking about or learning from the problem. 'Problem solving does not automatically help students learn content... Teaching problem solving as a process through a combination of modeling behavior, homework strategies, and class activities can indeed deepen students' conceptual understanding and promote their critical thinking abilities.' Highly recommended."

    Midwest Book Review

    "The author offers a unique perspective on problems that occur in teaching. She provides explanations and different courses of action that are targeted to specific problems. As a result, the reader has a better understanding of why the problem exists, what research has to say about the problem, and suggestions on how to address it. The writing style is that of one colleague mentoring another. This is a great resource for both the novice and experienced teacher."

    Diane M. Bunce, Professor, Patrick O’Brien Chemistry Scholar, Chemistry Department

    The Catholic University of America

    "Very important handbook: I highly recommend it for all STEM faculty. I found the entire book engrossing and very easy to read. I easily saw exciting and new ways to apply it. The chapters combine great summaries of fundamental literature on learning and teaching (“why do it”) with great ideas on how to do it including key examples from the literature. Powerfully and uniquely focused on the key problems faculty perceive in their classes."

    Craig E. Nelson Professor (Emeritus) & Faculty Development Consultant Biology & SOTL

    Indiana University, Bloomington

    "As the sciences become increasingly important to both our economy and our lives, educators are seeking to improve teaching and learning in these fields. In Teaching Undergraduate Science, Linda Hodges synthesizes those evidence-based strategies that will help faculty to be intentional in re-designing their courses to facilitate deeper learning. Readers will gain useful insights about ways of engaging students in class and as they conduct research or solve problems on their own."

    Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, PhD

    University of Maryland Baltimore County

    “Hodges makes a strong case for approaching issues in the science classroom the same way a scientist conducts research: by understanding the issue, identifying how others have addressed similar situations, becoming familiar with literature in the field, and by practicing and applying the available theories and tools. To this end, the book’s ‘charts’ provide useful prompts for personal reflections and communal conversations about integrating new strategies into one’s teaching repertoire.

    Teaching Undergraduate Science is a valuable reminder of where we are now in understanding how learning happens and how particular learning strategies work to overcome obstacles in the classroom.”

    Jeanne L. Narum, Director Emeritus

    Project Kaleidoscope

    "This book is a must read for any college science instructor. Hodges summarizes key ideas from a wide variety of educational research to highlight the most important barriers to student learning in college science courses. She then connects these ideas to a range of actionable instructional techniques. Each instructional technique is rated in terms of time and effort required to implement. This is an impressive synthesis of practical ideas written with minimal jargon."

    Charles Henderson, Professor, Department of Physics and Director, Mallinson Institute for Science Education

    Western Michigan University

    "This clearly written, timely book provides STEM instructors with a treasure trove of practical teaching advice and the educational research behind it. Hodges writes with sympathy for both students trying to learn and instructors trying to help them, while gently but persistently pushing adoption of evidence-based teaching approaches. Especially welcome is her emphasis on deliberate practice, backward design, and adaptation for the classroom of the highly effective apprenticeship model of teaching in a research lab."

    William B. Wood, Distinguished Professor of MCD Biology, Emeritus, and Center for STEM Teaching

    University of Colorado, Boulder