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Networking Topics

Networking Topics

One of the goals of the Life Discovery – Doing Science Education Conference is to facilitate networking during and beyond the conference. The Life Discovery partner societies are interested in building live and virtual learning communities! Learn more about the Networking discussions at the 2014 conference:

2014 LDC Networking Session Report

During the Conference

There will be two networking sessions.

The first session will be held on Friday at 11:10 am. During this session, participants will be able to join one of the groups below. Conference registrants will be asked to indicate their networking interests in the registration process. Each group will be led by a facilitator.  The goal of the networking session are to prioritize key issues related to the topic and to generate some recommendations on action steps. In other words, what does the group want to work on over the next year and who else should be engaged?

On Saturday at 1:00 pm, we will post the issues and recommendations around the room and participants will be invited to vote on the best and most urgent ideas. Finally, these ideas will be synthesized during the Closing Plenary by a panel as we consider “What’s in store for the future of Biology Education?

After the conference

We will summarize the discussion and post the report online. We hope to take these reflections to online forums following the conference to build collegial support and exchange of ideas and information if there is sufficient interest.



Networking Topics (choose 1 topic in conference registration)

N1)  Career development 

This topic is about enhancing awareness among educators of career trajectories following education in the life sciences. There is concern that educators tend to focus teaching towards career trajectories leading to academic science because that is what they did themselves.  This trajectory is likely to be relevant to a small subset of students, so we need to engage more with a diversity of career options.

  • What career options are likely to be available to students studying ecology and evolution or other related life science areas?
  • How can we integrate examples or topics into teaching that provide insights into such career trajectories, building on existing topical coverage?
  • Are there specific methods we might introduce to promote career opportunities (e.g. visiting lecturers from other sectors, career workshops, panels or tutorials, mock interview sessions, etc)?

N2) How to make connections with professional societies 

Professional societies can be hubs for connecting learning across institutions and settings, linking individuals, and providing venues for sharing resources. Professional societies may represent its members on various issues impacting the field and also provide leadership in unchartered waters. 

  • How have professional societies helped you in your career as a science educator?
  • What opportunities have you taken advantage of?
  • Are there gaps that professional societies can help bridge?
  • What tips do you have for biology educators looking to build connections?

N3) Inquiry – Directed/guided or open?

This topic is about the pedagogical strategy of inquiry-based learning in the science (specifically biology) classroom and whether directed/guided inquiry or open-ended inquiry (or a hybrid of the two) is most effective at increasing science literacy and future science engagement in students.   With its roots in the ideas of John Dewey and the teaching of skepticism and critical thinking, different versions of inquiry-based learning have been practiced in science education for over a century. Most recently, inquiry-based learning proponents argue that teaching and learning must be thoughtful, problem-based, relevant and even globally critical, and action-oriented. Indeed, if science research is inherently an inquiry-based process, why shouldn’t our students engage in the practice in our classrooms? While the benefits of inquiry-based learning are obvious (e.g. increased science literacy and future science engagement), the ability to implement the practice in the classroom depends heavily on the scientific skills of the teacher, the nature of the student population, and the content demands of the curriculum and time needed to cover them.

  • Across the spectrum of inquiry strategies—directed/guided inquiry to open-ended inquiry—what are the benefits and challenges?
  • What does an effective directed/guided inquiry look like in the classroom and what are some good examples from our classrooms?
  • What does an effective open-ended inquiry look like in the classroom and what are some good examples from our classrooms?
  • What are the obvious or subtle tensions in our classrooms that get in the way of using any kind of an inquiry-based approach?
  • If critical thinking and thoughtful and constructive skepticism (i.e. how do you know what you know?) by our students are among our primary goals as science educators, how do we teach and reach them?

N4) Engaging Minority Students in Biology Courses

This topic is about engaging minority students in biology by developing connections and relevance to biological concepts. Intercultural proficiency, including an understanding of cross-cultural communication, global-mindedness, and intercultural sensitivity, is key to building an educational community which is open to diverse students. Educators often easily engage students who are like themselves leaving the others in the classroom feeling left out. How do we make biology interesting to a broad-range of students? What methods exist to engage minority students in biology?

  • What methods can biology educators use to engage a broad range of students from the existing multicultural mosaic?
  • How can we biology be made relevant to diverse audiences?
  • How can intercultural understanding be incorporated in the biology classroom?   

N5) Current events – strategies to rapidly turn around news items into genuine learning experience 

This topic is about exploring strategies to take a news item and quickly turn it into a classroom activity so that it not only presents biology as a component of daily life, but also takes advantage of it being a current event. Daily, if not hourly, news stories present a number of biologically based events that could serve as excellent examples of biological concepts, processes, or principles. However, it can be challenging to take those and transform them into meaningful learning experiences.

  • What is the nature of how science is presented in the media?
  • What makes a good news item to use in class?
  • What are the strategies for using current events effectively in a classroom?
  • How can students be motivated to look at current events and critically evaluate their scientific content?