The University of Minnesota has a national reputation in biology teaching and educational research. To build on existing strengths, the Department of Biology Teaching and Learning was created in July 2014 as a partnership between the College of Biological Sciences and the College of Education and Human Development. The mission of our new department is to discover, apply, and share research-based strategies that transform biology education.
The 2012 report from the Presidents Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Engage to Excel, recommends using evidence-based practices to ensure that we retain and graduate the full diversity of students who are interested in pursuing STEM-based careers. This report, in many ways, echoes decades-long educational reform efforts that include the National Academies’ Scientific Teaching Initiative for Undergraduate Biology Education, which has trained hundreds of faculty to use a scientific approach in their science teaching. Within existing biological professional societies, abstracts and publications that demonstrate effective teaching are approaching similar levels of prestige and impact as those reporting disciplinary science results. Journals that report these results have been created, providing new venues for publishing biology education research. A professional society, The Society for Biology Education Research, has been created and currently has several hundred members. New funding opportunities are emerging to support innovative teaching and research on effective teaching. It is on this strong national base that the University of Minnesota pursues excellence in biology education.
With strengths in both biological and pedagogical research, the Department of Biology Teaching and Learning strives to be part of this tradition of excellence. Through our ongoing research, our department members contribute to the growing understanding of how students learn; through their teaching and outreach, we model the implementation of evidence-based educational research; and through our mentoring of graduate students and colleagues, we will help build a strong community of teaching scholars of national reputation.