Biology How Life Works

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  • Mark Hens

    Mark Hens is Associate Professor of Biology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he has taught introductory biology since 1996. He is a National Academies Education Mentor in the Life Sciences and is the director of his department’s Introductory Biology Program. In this role, he guided the development of a comprehensive set of assessable student learning outcomes for the two-semester introductory biology course required of all science majors at UNCG. In various leadership roles in general education, both on his campus and statewide, he was instrumental in crafting a common set of assessable student learning outcomes for all natural science courses for which students receive general education credit on the sixteen campuses of the University of North Carolina system.


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    Jean Heitz

    Jean Heitz is a Distinguished Faculty Associate at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI. She has worked with the two-semester introductory sequence for biological sciences majors for over 30 years. Her primary roles include developing both interactive discussion/recitation activities designed to uncover and modify misconceptions in biology and open-ended process-oriented labs designed to give students a more authentic experience with science. The lab experience includes engaging all second-semester students in independent research, either mentored research or a library based meta-analysis of an open question in the literature. She is also the advisor to the Peer Learning Association and is actively involved in TA training. She has taught a graduate course in “Teaching College Biology,” has presented active-learning workshops at a number of national and international meetings, and has published a variety of lab modules, workbooks, and articles related to biology education.


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    John Merrill

    John Merrill is the Director of the Biological Sciences Program in the College of Natural Science at Michigan State University. This program administers the core biology course sequence required for all science majors. He is a National Academies Education Mentor in the Life Sciences. In recent years he has focused his research on teaching and learning with emphasis on classroom interventions and enhanced assessment. A particularly active area is the NSF-funded development of computer tools for automatic scoring of students' open-ended responses to conceptual assessment questions, with the goal of making it feasible to use open-response questions in large-enrollment classes.


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    Randall Phillis

    Randall Phillis is Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has taught in the majors introductory biology course at this institution for 19 years, and is a National Academies Education Mentor in the Life Sciences. With help from the Pew Center for Academic Transformation (1999), he has been instrumental in transforming the introductory biology course to an active learning format that makes use of classroom communication systems. He also participates in an NSF-funded project to design model-based reasoning assessment tools for use in class and on exams. These tools are being designed to both develop and evaluate student scientific reasoning skills, with a focus on topics in introductory biology.


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    Debra Pires

    Debra Pires is an Academic Administrator at the University of California, Los Angeles. She teaches the introductory courses in the Life Sciences Core Curriculum. She is also the Instructional Consultant for the Center for Education Innovation & Learning in the Sciences (CEILS). Many of her efforts are focused on curricular redesign of introductory biology courses. Through her work with CEILS, she coordinates faculty development workshops across several departments to facilitate pedagogical changes associated with curricular developments. Her current research focuses on what impact the experience of active learning pedagogies in lower division courses may have on student performance and concept retention in upper division courses.


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