Biology Faculty Member Awarded $498,725 National Science Foundation Grant

nsfCAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Aug.15, 2011 — Dr. Margaret Waterman, professor of biology at Southeast Missouri State University, has been awarded a $498,725 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant under the Research Coordination Networks – Undergraduate Biology Education (RCN-UBE) program.

Waterman is the principal investigator of the project, which includes collaborators from State University of New York Buffalo, Emory University, Spelman College, University of Wisconsin River Falls, University of Delaware, Three Rivers Community College, EMBRLI Consulting and Michigan State University.

Grant funds will be used to develop a Research Collaborative Network in Undergraduate Biology Education for biology faculty who use, develop or conduct research on Case Study or Problem Based Learning (PBL) pedagogies for undergraduate biology teaching. It will draw together the expertise and resources of several existing, but essentially independent, centers for case study and PBL for furthering their work and supporting other members of the network. Case Study and PBL methods, while well documented as effective for science learning, are not as widely used as they could be.

“This funding from NSF brings to life a goal I have had for the last 15 years – to establish a coordinated source of information, resources and research collaborators around Case Study and Problem Based Learning methods,” said Waterman. “I am grateful for the tremendous support from Southeast as my collaborators and I worked toward this goal over the year and am pleased that this national and international project’s home is Southeast.”

The Network will address the communication of research and practice to support the “New Biology” called for in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s 2010 report, “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Education: A Call to Action.” According to the report, “Clearly, better communication is needed about the success and effectiveness of these new approaches to designing and implementing a more student-centered and outcomes-oriented undergraduate biology curriculum. One recommendation consistently emerged to help in this effort: the need for a consolidated resource of research and classroom experiences documenting what works and classroom experiences documenting what works and why.”

The grant-funded project will facilitate communication among researchers, practitioners and developers; encourage online and face-to-face collaboration among researchers and practitioners; encourage the development of proposals and unfunded projects advancing case study and PBL; engage current and future faculty in the activities of the network; organize and simplify the dissemination of resources, findings, and opportunities; generate tools for assessing and researching the effectiveness of case study and PBL; collaborate with several scientific professional organizations in coordinating network conferences; and provide opportunities for presentation and publication through conferences and meetings.

The goal of the NSF Research Coordination Networks (RCN) program is to advance a field or create new directions in research or education. Groups of investigators are supported to communicate and coordinate their research, training and educational activities across disciplinary, organizational, geographic and international boundaries. RCN provides opportunities to foster new collaborations, including international partnerships, and address interdisciplinary topics. Innovative ideas for implementing novel networking strategies, collaborative technologies, and development of community standards for data and meta-data are especially encouraged. For more information on the NSF RCN grant program, visit http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=11691.