Science magazine has awarded a prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction to a Case Western Reserve University class that melds biology, computer modeling, mathematical analysis and writing.
"Dynamics of Biological Systems," taught by Biology Professor Hillel Chiel and three graduate assistants, abandons traditional lectures altogether in favor of learning by doing. The teachers call the class an example of the use of the continual improvement model in education.
In it, Chiel pairs biology majors with engineering, physics or math majors, and has them concentrate on building academic and collaborative skills as they apply math to biological questions. Teachers provide guidance, not answers, often working one-on-one through class time.
Chiel, and doctoral students Jeffery P. Gill, Jeffrey M. McManus and Kendrick M. Shaw, describe "Dynamics" and the philosophy behind the course in this week's issue of Science. The story is embargoed until 2 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time Thursday, May 24.
The Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction was established to encourage innovation and excellence in education by recognizing outstanding, inquiry-based science and design-based engineering education. Winners are selected by the editors of Science with the assistance of a judging panel composed of teachers and researchers in relevant science and engineering fields.
Each month, Science publishes an essay by a recipient of the award, which explains the winning project. Only 20 percent of submitted entries go on to become winners.
"The vast majority of biologists hate math and usually don't like programming," Chiel said. "Many engineers have been forced to take biology and hate it because of the memorization." The prevalence of these attitudes is reflected in questionnaires the students complete at the beginning of the semester.
This class, however, puts the two disciplines firmly in students'
|Contact: Kevin Mayhood|
Case Western Reserve University