published December 31, 1969

SENCER E-Newsletter, July 2005, Volume 4, Issue 11

What Difference Does Teaching a SENCER Course Make?

Recently, we asked a group of SENCER participants and colleagues at their institutions to tell us about the courses and programs that they have developed. We were amazed by the scope and breadth of SENCER-related activities that are taking place.

We want to share some quotes with you from the responses that we received. For those of you who are new to SENCER project, this will give you an idea of the different kinds of approaches that you can expect to hear more about at the upcoming Summer Institute.

We plan to feature many of these projects more extensively in future issues of the SENCER e-newsletter. If you have a course or program that you'd like us to share with the SENCER community, e-mail us at

We asked, "If you could name one difference in learning outcomes that you attribute to the students who have enrolled and completed your "SENCER course" that is different from your other course(s), what would that be?"

And here's what they said...

Timothy Elgren, Hamilton College; Scientific and Social Perspectives on HIV/AIDS

"We used a mock public hearing in this course and everyone got to experience the power of rhetoric in the public forum. Even those defending the 'indefensible' could make a powerful and moving presentation. Careful observers who critically analyzed the scientific arguments presented could find their way through the rhetoric."

David Courard-Hauri, Drake University; Science and Math for Civic Engagement

"We are trying to integrate Excel modeling with the discussion topics and role-playing games. I think that the students are getting a better idea of how to think quantitatively about relevant issues and learning to do hypothesis testing using spreadsheets. This helps students to develop an intuitive feel for how equations lead to meaningful results, and helps place math in a useful context. When they build a spreadsheet themselves and then use it for role-playing, it helps to answer the question 'What is math good for?' Also, I use much more math in this class than I do in other non-majors courses. Hence, a learning outcome that I attribute to the students who have enrolled in the course is mathematical skill suitable to an upper-level non-major."

Juliette Winterer, Franklin and Marshall University; Death and Disease

"Students shed their fear of science ('Oh you have to be good at math and chemistry to understand what science has to say.') and learn to discuss and debate scientific conclusions just as they discuss and debate philosophical and religious conclusions. I wish all my science students could do that. Some of these Death and Disease students have gone on to enroll in my introductory biology course, and these students are much more comfortable asking questions and challenging my assertions than others are in this course."

Roger Young, Drury University; Molecular Biology and Genetics

"Students have a much better grasp of where that subject matter 'fits,' or relates to the rest of their education. They frequently bring up related topics in other classes and provide the rest of the class (and me) with a greater depth of learning."

John Peters, College of Charleston; Elements of Biology

"Students, when asked to comment how various aspects of the course affected their learning, were more likely to discuss how they are now able to do something as a result of the course (intrinsic gains). In the classes taught using traditional methods, the students mostly commented on what I did, as the instructor, to affect their learning (extrinsic)."

Mariah Birgen, Wartburg College; Science and Society

"In PHY 150 the students finish the course more confident that they are capable of 'doing science.' This is a new experience for most of our students who are often very uncomfortable with science in the beginning."