The nation's powerhouse research universities are still getting failing marks in teaching undergraduate biology, concluded attendees at a workshop held August 16–19 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UWM). The 37 workshop participants came primarily from those very Research I universities (national leaders in federal support for science research), including University of North Carolina, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ohio State, Penn State, Cornell, and the University of Michigan.

"One of the concerns is we're not teaching conceptual thinking. We, as a profession, tend to emphasize the individual facts and factoids and not the overriding concepts that bridge ideas in science," said speaker Jo Handelsman, a UWM professor of plant pathology. Handelsman is one of 20 recipients of $1-million Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grants for improving undergraduate classroom instruction. Recipients were picked for both their research prowess and their ability to develop innovative ways of teaching.

Discussions about improving undergraduate...

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