Science associate editor Melissa McCartney says that Evolution of Human Mate Preference is an ideal recipient of the IBI prize. "Students are able to participate in inquiry learning in a way that is virtually unrestricted, the module is easily adapted to classes of all sizes and abilities, and it is effectively free, with no specialized equipment required," McCartney says.
Foster's commitment to inquiry-based learning comes at least partly from her own experience as a student. When she entered the University of California at Berkeley, she wanted to major in genetics. Faced with large conventional lecture classes, Foster found it hard to connect and didn't feel she had access to faculty. Because of this, she decided to change her major to ecology and evolutionary biology. In her new major, her classes involved hands-on field work, including handling biological specimens.
"I think that kind of kinesthetic, tactile experience was better for me," she says.
Drawn into research, Foster earned a PhD at the University of California at Irvine, studying the evolution of parental care and sexual selection in zebra finches. It was also during graduate school that Foster developed her interest in science education. Mentors there developed student instructors' teaching skills, introducing them to problem-based learning, a form of inquiry in which students start with a problem that has many answers, none of which are black and white, and each student or student group can pursue a different exploration of the problem.
Mate preference in humans is such a problem, in that it is very complicated, varying with respect to type of trait preferred (visual, auditory, olfactory, personality, etc.); the interac
|Contact: Natasha Pinol|
American Association for the Advancement of Science