Scientific Teaching: A powerful approach to science education

ImageI just returned from a fantastic workshop on Scientific Teaching and wanted to share some of what I learned. The term “scientific teaching” refers to an approach to learning that applies the same rigor as science itself.  Teachers employ proven methods of active learning to engage students in the process of science – targeting undergraduates. The methods have been tested to ensure that they reach a diversity of students and incorporate assessment tools that permit both the students and teachers to track their progress. The evidence behind this approach to learning is rock solid and it is shocking to me that more educators have not been exposed to it – and incorporated it into their classrooms. It takes the “lecturing” out of teaching and replaces it with engaging learning activities that require our students to search for answers, apply what they are learning, and communicate their knowledge in creative ways.

The workshop is called the Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education and is offered by the National Academies of Sciences and the Howard Hughes Medical Insitute ( The content is based upon a a “textbook” co-authored by Jo Handelsman, who was recently nominated by President Obama to fill the seat of Associate Director for Science, Office of Science and Technology Policy. Whether you teach undergraduates, high school or middle school students – many of the approaches to learning offered in scientific teaching may be relevant to you! I urge you to explore this powerful approach to engaging our students in exploring the world of science!!!!

Jo Handelsman, Sarah Miller, and Christine Pfund. (2007). Scientific Teaching. Madison, WI; Englewood, CO; and New York: The Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching, Roberts & Company, and W.H. Freeman.


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