How to Teach Nanoscience

What Works: Active Learning!

Best Practices in STEM education apply to the teaching of Nanotechnology/Science. The jury is in: the evidence clearly shows that active learning is the most effective mode of instruction. See recent contributions:

  • Active Learning Increases Student Performance in Science, Engineering and Mathematics--Scott Freeman, Sarah L. Eddy, Miles McDonough, Michelle K. Smith, Nnadozie Okoroafor, Hannah Jordt, and Mary Pat Wenderoth, PNAS June 10, 2014. 111 (23) 8410-8415.
  • Handelsman, J., Miller, S., Miller, S. M. L., Pfund, C., and Teaching, W. P. f. S., 2007, Scientific Teaching, W. H. Freeman.
  • Handelsman, J., Ebert-May, D., Beichner, R., Bruns, P., Chang, A., DeHaan, R., Gentile, J., Lauffer, S., Stewart, J., and Tilghman, S. M., 2004, Scientific teaching, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A two-year study by the NRC (2012) of Discipline-Based Education Research in the STEM disciplines explored 1) the current status of DBER, 2) evidence-based contributions of DBER to STEM education and 3) future directions for collaborative discipline-based education research. Although there are commonalities in DBER among the STEM disciplines, there are unique contributions and opportunities for the Geosciences to engage DBER to support excellence in geoscience education. Discipline-Based Education Research see an overview on Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering by David Mogk and the NAGT webiner by Kim Kastens and David Mogk (Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) and Geoscience presented Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

Strategies and Methods of Active Learning

The National Science Foundation, Directorate for Education and Human Resources, and the Division of Undergraduate Education have invested significant resources in the design, development, and assessment of curricular materials and methods. Here is a compilation of resources to support excellence in STEM education.

From the On the Cutting Edge Program for Geoscience Faculty Professional Development

Although the examples in these websites may be focused on the geosciences, the principles are universal among STEM disciplines:

Course Design Tutorial: The Course Design Tutorial from the award winning On the Cutting Edge Program for Faculty Professional Development; this tutorial uses the "Reverse Design" strategy of Wiggins and McTighe (2005) that focuses on goal setting of student learning outcomes, alignment of instructional activities, and use of authentic assessments.

Modules That Focus on Improving Instruction:

Resources from Pedagogy in Action

Demonstrated Best Practices from Pedagogy in Action Includes descriptions of over 50 tested instructional methods including Engaged Instruction (emphasis on student-student interactions with faculty serving as facilitator), Teaching with Visualizations, Teaching with Data, Quantitative Reasoning and much more. Each pedagogic approach is described succinctly so you can quickly understand how the technique might be relevant to your teaching. Written by fellow educators, these descriptions include tips for effectively using each technique, related research on their impacts on learning, as well as a set of example activities.

Undergraduate Research

Research embedded in coursework:

Undergraduate Research as Teaching Practice with advice on preparing students and faculty for research experiences, strategies for embedding research in courses, project development and management, training in use of instruments, mentoring of students, assessment, and dissemination of results.

Resources for K-12 Nano-Education

Nano Education Resources-- Quinn Spadola, Lisa Friedersdorf (2017). Nano Education Resources. (Version 3.0.0). nanoHUB."This database lists nanoscale science and engineering education resources by topic area, grade level, core discipline, STEM content area, and resource type."

Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor (SENIC) Education Resources--includes outreach demonstration guides, instruction sheets, and other resources.

For K-12 Teachers from

Nano-Link Center for Nanotechnology Education--"Nano-Link Alliance Members are the acknowledged experts in nanotechnology education: igniting nanoscience education, generating excitement among students and strengthening the country by supplying a highly skilled workforce for industry."

International Benchmark Workshop on K-12 Nanoscale Science and Engineering Education--NSF sponsored workshop held in 2010; download the report from this link.

Some Ethical Issues Related to Experiential Learning

The National Society for Experiential Education has provided Guiding Principles of Ethical Practice.

Principle One: Experiential educators uphold the principles of engaged education and democratic societies, the pursuit of truth, and the freedom of students to express their viewpoints, engage in critical thinking, and develop habits of reflection and civil discourse, listening and learning from those whose experiences and values differ from their own.

Principle Two: Experiential educators use recognized, quality standards and practices in the placement and supervision of students engaged in field-based learning experiences and in the creation and maintenance of ethical partnerships with the communities and organizations that host and support these students, maintaining privacy, confidentiality and reciprocity throughout.

Principle Three: Experiential educators recognize the depth of responsibility in teaching and modeling the values, skills, and relationships that foster a spirit of inquiry and fairness without discrimination or disempowerment.

Principle Four: Experiential educators are informed and guided by a body of knowledge, research and pedagogical practices recognized by and specific to the field of experiential education, including reflection, self-authorship, assessment and evaluation, civic engagement, and the development of personal and social responsibility.

Principle Five: Experiential educators are committed to excellence through active scholarship, assessment and instruction, and the creation of shared knowledge and understanding through affiliation with networks and organizations that advance experiential learning.

Principle Six: Experiential educators create informed learning contexts that foster student growth and actualization of potential, achieve academic and civic goals, and reflect excellence in curriculum design and quality.

Principle Seven: Experiential educators are aware of and sensitive to recognized legal, ethical and professional issues germane to the field of experiential education and act in accordance with established guidelines to ensure appropriate practice, for example, NSEE Principles of Best Practices (1998, 2009).