Secondary teachers get lesson in biology

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    Middle school and high school teachers participating in a Contemporary Issues in Biology workshop finished their third follow-up session Saturday in Arlington. With money from a teaching quality grant issued by the state of Texas, TCU instructors have developed a workshop series for middle school and high school science teachers based on the information that is taught during the Contemporary Issues in Biology course, said Molly Weinburgh, director of the Institute of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education.

    The Contemporary Issues course, which is a lab science class designed for non-science majors, is usually only offered to TCU students. The class focuses on how biology is used in contemporary issues ranging from topics such as the human genome project and DNA fingerprinting to global warming and acid rain, according to an online course description.

    Although this workshop is similar to the undergraduate course as far as topics that are covered and teaching methods that are used, it also shows teachers how to use the information learned in the classes by providing them with readings, videos and other class preparation tools, she said.

    “We’ve seen that when these teachers come in, they’re usually hesitant to expose their weaknesses, especially when it comes to content knowledge,” said Mark Bloom, a biology instructor who has helped the program for three years..

    Bloom said he and other faculty members observe the teachers who attended these training sessions and are required to document how the teachers were helped through the training session to provide examples when reapplying for the grant. He said he’s noticed that teachers are better able to answer some students’ questions because of what they have learned at the Contemporary Issues workshops.

    “It has a positive trickle down effect, and hopefully this program will help to change the way science is taught not only in Texas but throughout the country,” he said.

    The Institute of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education at TCU has provided a workshop for science teachers for the past four summers, Weinburgh said.

    High school teachers who participate teach biology and the middle school teachers teach life science, which is a precursor to high school biology, Weinburgh said.

    “Teachers need at least 110 hours of professional development credit and this program helps with that development,” Weinburgh said.

    This past summer, 18 teachers completed the course, she said, and there is already a wait list due to the popularity of the program.