published November 20, 2013

Fall MidAtlantic Meetings Engage Participants in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, Successful SENCER Projects, and Interdisciplinary Applications

Monica Devanas, Rutgers University
devanas@ctaar.rutgers.edu


On Friday, October 25, the SCI-MidAtlantic branch hosted its New Jersey-based meeting at Monmouth University. Catherine Duckett, Associate Dean for Sciences at Monmouth University was the co-host, inviting all STEM faculty from local institutions. The president of Monmouth, Paul R. Brown, addressed attendees with praise and encouragement for their work with STEM education and SENCER.


The program started with an overview of SENCER by Monica Devanas and updates on SENCER-ISE by Ellen Mappen. Then followed a series of presentations, models, and posters of SENCER projects of all varieties. Major Michael Giordano and Captain Jacquelynn Jordan from West Point described the progress their team has made with the redesign they are implementing across the curriculum in their presentation "West Point's First Year in Promoting the Integration of Multiple Course Concepts Amongst Faculty and Students."


Over lunch, STEM faculty from Monmouth University hosted lively discussions at their posters: "Improving Understanding of Science by Teaching Explicit Principles of Good Reasoning in an Evolution-Themed Integrated Critical Thinking Course," Iglika Pavlova, Biology and Kayla Lewis, Physics; "SENCERizing Evolution@Monmouth: Using Creationism as a Straw-man to Help Students Focus on Methods and Mechanisms," Catherine Duckett, Biology.


The afternoon discussion began with Ellen Mappen describing the new Math grant, "Engaging Mathematics: Building a National Community of Practice, a New NSF Supported Three-Year Initiative." This news was followed with a review of the "PQL – A Sustained Effort to Improve Developmental Math Courses at LaGuardia Community College," by Prabha Betne and Mangala Kothari.


SENCER is frequently a theme for interdisciplinary courses, or multidisciplinary courses, but in Health Care fields teams of inter-professional practitioners are the functional groups. Nick Ponzio, of the New Jersey Medical School briefed us on those issues and a community of Master Educators who have been examining "Inter-Professional Education in the Heath Sciences - Focus of the Master Educators' Guild of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences."


Unfortunately Chris Lazzaro, the Director of Science Education at The College Board, could not be present for the meeting, but he provided a "virtual presentation" which guided a rich and interesting discussion of "New Sciences Standards and changes to the College Board Examination," a fitting end to our meeting.


The following day, October 26, Len Champney, department of political science, and Robert Spalletta, department of physics, hosted a gathering at the University of Scranton. Bob and Len came to the 2013 SSI and offered to host the meeting to better reach out to the Eastern Pennsylvania institutions. The program began with "Introduction to SENCER and SENCER Goals" by Monica Devanas. Bob and Len then offered some reflections on their impressions of the SENCER SSI this past summer, the value of connecting STEM content to civic issues and the inspirational ideas from Dan Kahan, the 2013 SENCER Summer Institute opening plenary speaker.


Next the attendees committed to working on issues of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) with Carnegie Fellow Matt Fisher and Bettie Davis, Department of Chemistry, St. Vincent College. Matt and Bettie kept ideas flowing, challenged notions, and enriched discussions as groups of attendees identified questions of interest about their course and teaching.


Following the SoTL two-part workshop, presentations by local faculty looks at course redesign and hands-on models for improving student learning. Robin P. Ertl, Department of Science, Marywood University, Scranton, explained his redesign "A SENCER approach to biochemistry lab: preparing students for real world problem." Wrapping up the day was Terrence E. Sweeney from the department of biology at the University of Scranton, who fascinated everyone with his "Computer-Driven Mechanical Model Facilitates the Teaching of Complex Cardiovascular Concepts."