Your pathway to meaningful vocation
A curriculum is a pathway that guides students through a process of discovery, mastery, and reflection towards an array of career opportunities. More than simply preparing students for good jobs, the best curricula prepare students for a rewarding life of meaningful vocation addressing the world’s deep needs. Because this often involves dealing with difficult—even unsettling—topics, pathways like this are not always easy to travel. Thus, good curricula also require wise teachers who are committed to walking these roads as mentors and fellow sojourners. In the biology department at Calvin we see this as our chief calling and commitment.
The steps we’ve taken recently to improve our curriculum have resulted in some significant changes. In fact, we now find ourselves on the leading edge of a nation-wide reform movement in undergraduate biology education. Let’s take a look at what we are doing and how you might get involved.
Why is Biology Education Reforming?
There are many good reasons why undergraduate biology education is changing. Our own strategic planning efforts back in 2003 identified several realities that were stretching our old curriculum to the breaking point:
- Knowledge acquisition in biology is growing exponentially, creating a constant need for educational updating.
- Today’s technologies enable instant access to vast amounts of biological information even while raising new concerns about the scientific validity of much of that information.
- Cognitive research has provided new understandings of how people learn, which in turn has challenged many past practices and assumptions affecting how we teach.
- The complex global challenges our society is facing require biologists to master new skill sets, particularly those that relate to interdisciplinary communication and collaboration.
These and many other realizations have been highlighted in numerous national reports, including four that have been especially important in guiding our own curricular reforms:
- How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School
- Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians
- A New Biology for the 21st Century
- Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action
Of these, Vision and Change has become the most important for us. We have woven its core competencies and concepts into our curricular learning objectives.
Vision and Change’s six core competencies
- Ability to apply the process of science
- Ability to apply quantitative reasoning
- Ability to use modeling and simulation
- Ability to tap into the interdisciplinary nature of science
- Ability to communicate and collaborate
- Ability to understand the relationship between science and society
Vision and Change’s five core biological concepts
- Structure and function
- Information flow, exchange, and storage
- Pathways and transformations of energy and matter