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Approaches to Biology Teaching and Learning: Science Teaching and Learning Across the School-University Divide--Cultivating Conversations through Scientist-Teacher Partnerships


Partnerships between members of the scientific community at institutes of higher education and the K-12 education community are an increasingly popular approach to science education reform (Atkin, 1989; Chatman, 2002; Sussman, 1993; NSF, 2003a, 2003b). Although the word partnership can mean many things to many people, we use the term scientist-teacher partnership here to mean a collaboration among a group of college or university scientists and K-12 teachers, with the goal of improving science education along the kindergarten through postgraduate educational continuum, although many other varieties of partnerships can and do exist through museum and industry collaborations. Since the inception of Cell Biology Education, we have used the space of this column to highlight pedagogical approaches or topics that could be useful to readers in reflecting on and improving their own teaching practice in biology education. We have explored a variety of science teaching issues, including the anatomy of the questions we ask our students (Allen, 2002), how we group students in the learning process (Tanner, 2003), the role of problem-based learning in developing higher-order thinking skills (Allen, 2003), and even the critical importance of simply how long we wait in the classroom to hear answers to questions (Tanner, 2002). We've attempted to provide resources and rationales that would be useful to the broad audience of readers, including those new and veteran to teaching, those who view teaching as their primary profession and those who combine teaching with scientific research or administration. In selecting topics and writing this column, it has been no small influence that the primary co-authors of this column function in two different professional realms of science teaching and learning, one predominantly focused on the undergraduate level and the other on K-12 classrooms. We have been engaged in our own partnership, of sorts, and thought it appropriate to highlight the potential role of partnerships between members of the K-12 community and the college and university communities as a promising avenue for improving the teaching practice of all of us in K-16+ classrooms. Indeed, we propose that partnerships across the divide between K-12 schools and institutions of higher education are essential in increasing the coherency of science education in the American educational system from the first days of kindergarten through the undergraduate years.