published April 1, 2007

SENCER E-Newsletter, April 2007, Volume 6, Issue 7

SSI Alumni Incorporate SENCER into Majors Courses Across the STEM Disciplines

Robert Seiser and Kristen Leckrone - Roosevelt University

Roosevelt University is a private comprehensive university with full-service campuses in Chicago's South Loop and in suburban Schaumburg, Illinois. Both campuses offer Bachelor's degrees in biology, chemistry, allied health and math. Transfer and adult students make up a large percentage of our science and math majors. Their preparation, experience and interests are quite diverse. The College of Arts and Sciences is also experiencing an increase in the enrollment of traditional-aged undergraduate students.

Robert Seiser

Kristen Leckrone

We have been involved in SENCER since 2005, when an invitation and support from our university provost brought us to San Jose as an advance team for the Summer Institute. Our experiences there and a review of our curriculum revealed needs and opportunities for civic engagement in the undergraduate majors. Roosevelt has a strong focus on social justice and community outreach, and we had been challenged to identify aspects of the science and math majors that addressed that mission. In 2006, we returned to SSI with a full team of five faculty members from our science and math departments. The community and resources of SENCER made it possible for us to organize our thoughts on pedagogy and curriculum design, and then come up with a plan for coordinated changes to several courses. After SSI 2006, we applied for and received an implementation grant from NCSCE to support our work.

Our long-term objective is to incorporate the SENCER Ideals into the courses taken by most STEM majors. These include courses in general and organic chemistry, probability & statistics, science reasoning and quantitative methods, and molecular & cellular biology. In each targeted course, a Roosevelt faculty member works from the existing curriculum to implement best teaching practices and civic engagement opportunities.

Some of our approaches to course redesign include:

  • Science and society "threads" in lectures and assignments from different courses. This year's topics have included global warming (statistics, green chemistry, data collection) and cancer (experimental design, disease pathology, patient demographics).

  • Service learning experiences, critical-thinking exercises and applications-oriented laboratories in introductory courses.

  • Use of the SENCER SALG assessment tool to gauge general dispositions and specific content outcomes.

Work on this project began in earnest this year. We hope that as time goes on, we will see improvements in student learning, interest and retention and an increase in science and math majors' appreciation of the social relevance of science. To paraphrase our institutional mission statement, we aim for Roosevelt science and math graduates to become leaders in their communities and experts in their field. Our participation in SENCER has helped us to shape these goals into a plan of action that is appropriate for our institution. The SENCER community has provided invaluable support and guidance over the last two years; we look forward to SSI 2007 and the chance to share our challenges and our successes with all of you.