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Transfer of knowledge learned seen as a key to improving science education

Posted February 17, 2014

Attendees of a workshop at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will be immersed into “active learning,” an approach inspired by national reports targeting U.S. science education, in general, and, more specifically, the 60 percent dropout rate of students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“The goal of this session is to take many ideas around improving science education that are out there and make them applicable to the classroom,” says Eleanor “Elly” V.H. Vandegrift, associate director of the University of Oregon’s Science Literacy Program and workshop co-organizer. “My hope is that anybody who comes to this workshop will find something that they can take home and use immediately in the classroom.”

The three-hour session, “Thinking Skills for the 21st Century: Teaching for Transfer,” will focus on how science students learn material, but, more importantly, how well they transfer the concepts they’ve learned into their next class—in the same or a different discipline—or into their jobs. Interested faculty who attend the session will be updated on instructional approaches that help nurture such transfer, and they will spend time engaged in individual and small group activities.

Transfer starts with good teaching, says Vandegrift, whose UO program is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “I think what happens a lot of times in traditional classrooms is that when students sit and just listen to a lecture, they are not processing the information.”

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