Biology faculty take part in national institute on scientific teaching

With the goal of improving student learning, a select group of faculty members in Oakland University’s Department of Biological Sciences attended a national conference dedicated to enhancing teaching methods in the STEM fields. Rasul Chaudhry, Shailesh Lal, Luis Villa-Diaz and Randal Westrick took part in this year’s Summer Institute on Scientific Teaching, which was held June 4-10 at the University of Minnesota. 


The event, which was by invitation only, focused on helping university instructors in the STEM fields create an inclusive environment in which students of all backgrounds and learning styles can succeed.


Chaudhry, who has taught at OU for more than 30 years, said the institute allowed STEM professors to share ideas on how to improve student engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, subjects with a reputation for being academically challenging.


“We are always looking for ways to spark students’ interest. Some students struggle early on (in STEM subjects) and are turned off,” Chaudhry said. “They may develop a mindset that ‘it’s too difficult’ or ‘it’s just not for me.’ Our challenge as educators is to reach out to all students and help them see that STEM can be fun and interesting.”


During the conference, participants engaged in interactive sessions, worked in small groups with a trained facilitator, and presented instructional materials for feedback and review. OU’s team presented a lesson on epigenetics, which is the study of biological mechanisms that control gene expression.


“It’s a topic that must be taught with sensitivity,” Villa-Diaz said, noting that epigenetics play a role in disease predisposition being passed from generation to generation. “There could be students in the class who have family history of certain diseases, such as cancer.”


The four professors were designated Scientific Teaching Fellows for their dedication to undergraduate education.

Participants discussed ways…

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