The Teaching, Learning & Technology (TLT) Faculty Center helped support Stony Brook University’s first in-house Summer Institute for Undergraduate STEM Education July 7 through July 10, in the Center for Global Studies and Human Development. Nearly 25 faculty participated, including 20 from Stony Brook and five others from Suffolk County Community College and SUNY Old Westbury. The event, hosted in partnership between the Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CESAME) and the Program in Undergraduate Biology, consisted of a series of workshops, talks and group presentations focused on the topics of active learning, prior learning, assessment and diversity.
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s very productive,” said Robert McCarthy, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “This workshop helped me understand the needs for objectives and learning goals. Also, in the past, I was afraid that assessment meant trying to help administrators make sure that we satisfied particular goals. I see less of that now and understand how assessment can be used to benefit students.”
TLT played a crucial role in supporting the event. Patricia Aceves, director of the Faculty Center, served on the organizing committee and also led a presentation on the many services that TLT can provide to assist faculty in improving education. Jennifer Adams, an instructional technologist in TLT, helped configure iPads for the event’s participants, making sure the tablet devices were outfitted with applications useful to educators, like chemistry professor Joe Lauher, who uses an iPad when teaching organic chemistry. During his talk on active learning, Lauher encouraged faculty to think about ways to get out from behind the podium.
The tablet computers provided by TLT are now on loan to Stony Brook participants to use to foster new and innovative ways of teaching in STEM disciplines.
“So, I now have an iPad!” said J. Peter Gergen, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and one of the organizers of the event.
Adams loaded the iPads with educational software such as Doceri, an application that allows instructors to use their tablet as a whiteboard. All instructional materials — PowerPoint presentations and background research — is online in Google Drive and can be downloaded onto the iPads and incorporated into a lesson.
CESAME started in 2007, but had formerly been a group called LIGASE (Long Island Group Advancing Science Education) until Keith Sheppard arrived, a tenure track faculty member in Biochemistry and Cell Biology whose research was focused on education and who now serves as CESAME’s director. LIGASE transformed into a center and now there are five tenure track faculty involved with joint appointments in CESAME and a science department (Ecology and Evolution, Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Physics, and Chemistry).
“Our overall goal is to improve STEM education,” said Sheppard.
Stony Brook has been participating in a national movement that started in biology education in 2004. It actually hosted the Northeast Regional Summer Institute last summer, which had about 36 faculty from 18 institutions across the northeast.
“Because of our involvement in the National Academy Summer Institutes, we now have more than 20 Stony Brook faculty that have participated from six different departments including Physics, Chemistry, and Applied Math. So, this reaching out to other STEM disciplines started, and there’s been a committee to think about undergraduate STEM education. The committee talked about it, and there was wide agreement from everyone that we ought to do something in-house across the STEM departments. That was one of the major recommendations from the committee this past year, so CESAME took the lead in organizing this event. Because we hosted the National Academies here at Stony Brook last summer in undergraduate biology, we took our experience and put it together with the scholarship of CESAME to co-organize and bring people together,” said Gergen.
— Kerrin Perniciaro; photos courtesy of Fei Wu