Bruce Alberts’ Grand Challenges Offer Reforms Sought by Science Educators

Bruce Alberts, co-founder of the Science & Health Education Partnership, brings science to life in a San Francisco public school. UCSF Public Affairs file photo circa 1987.

Bruce Alberts, co-founder of the Science & Health Education Partnership, brings science to life in a San Francisco public school. UCSF Public Affairs file photo circa 1987.

Bruce Alberts grew up living near Chicago where his love of science started at an early age.  He received a bachelor’s degree in biochemical science and a doctorate in biophysics.  Alberts is best known for having served as President of the National Academy of Science (NAS) for 12 years. He is an advocate of improving science education in both primary and secondary schools.  It is apparent that his daughter’s teaching has influenced Alberts as she continues teaching high school science in the San Francisco Public Schools.

Alberts also served for five years as Editor-in-Chief for the AAAS journal Science.  As his service ended in 2013, he offered Three Grand Challenges for improving science teaching.  The first Challenge was to encourage using the wisdom of teachers and education researchers alike.  Specifically, it was to Build education systems that incorporate the advice of outstanding full-time classroom teachers when formulating education policies.”  Such teaching has been central to the NSTA Exemplary Science Program (ESP) monographs.  

The second Grand Challenge offered by Alberts was to: “Harness the influence of business organizations to strongly support the revolution in science education specific in the 2013 Next Generation Science Standards.”  He argued that we need more partnerships with business, industries, and education leaders across the world.  Currently a major reform effort exists called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with innovations designed to prepare young people for future science careers.  The NSTA publication Exemplary STEM Programs: Designs for Success illustrates how STEM reforms are being used to change science teaching at all levels (K-16).  

The third Grand Challenge offered by Alberts was to: “Incorporate active science inquiry into all introductory college science classes!” Many college teachers are now accepting this challenge for improving college teaching.   The STEM reform mandated exemplary science teaching should be approached without the typical use of textbooks, laboratory manuals, and teacher lectures.  Such change is needed to exemplify evidence of real learning by students and not just their reciting what they remember from textbooks and lectures. Changing typical teaching methods used by college science faculty is one of the most needed changes (but hardest to achieve). College professors often are only interested in research and grant funding – not teaching!

Alberts urges all, especially scientists, to be active collaborators and to focus on teaching that improves student learning and use of the information that illustrates the real “doing” of science.  This means exploring the natural universe, seeking explanations of the objects and events encountered, and seeking evidence to support the explanations proposed.  All teachers should encourage students to focus on “doing” science as opposed to just reciting what they remember from textbooks and teacher lectures.  Current reforms of science can be met by using the three “Grand Challenges” offered by Bruce Alberts. But as Alberts stated in 2013, “A start has been made, but much more remains to be done.”

Robert E .Yager

Professor of Science Education

University of Iowa

Please follow and like us:
error
This entry was posted in The Leading Edge and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Bruce Alberts’ Grand Challenges Offer Reforms Sought by Science Educators

  1. Leslie S. Jones says:

    Bruce Alberts is so correct in his third challenge, “Incorporate active science inquiry into all introductory college science classes!” . It is a hard sell with other scientists, though, because they want to do things the way they always have. I have been given the freedom to do it in “content” courses for education majors for over 10 years. Right now, I am going through the (year-long) approval process for an integrated “Science for Citizens” course that is being designed to fulfill the requirement for non-majors and will be taught using an Inquiry-Oriented format.

  2. Jeff Weld says:

    Professor Yager captures the essentials of the Alberts Grand Challenges spot-on. The second especially is squarely where the STEM “movement” comes in — bridging the cultures of education and business/industry. A national current of diminishing support for schools can be interpreted as a mandate to adapt to changing times, much as the private sector continuously must do. STEM is leading the way by “flipping” classrooms, solving problems creatively, collaboratively, interdisciplinarily. Just like real life. Let’s support all teachers in fulfilling their roles as STEM educators focused on “doing” as Dr. Yager suggests. Then, higher ed. get ready!

  3. Jay Labov says:

    Dr. Alberts’ leadership as Editor-in-Chief at Science and the special issue of that journal on Grand Challenges in Education also served as the catalysts for a convocation in June 2014 that explored opportunities for teacher leadership. The convocation was organized under the aegis of the Teacher Advisory Council of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the Council was established in 2002 by Dr. Alberts when he served as President of the National Academy of Sciences). The summary report from that convocation, “Exploring Opportunities for STEM Teacher Leadership,” can be downloaded as a pdf file without cost at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/18984/exploring-opportunities-for-stem-teacher-leadership-summary-of-a-convocation. Additional information about the Teacher Advisory Council is available at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/dbasse/tac/index.htm. Dr. Alberts has done so much to advance teachers and teaching!

  4. Jay Labov says:

    I forgot to include that the convocation and resulting report mentioned in my earlier posting was generously supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Leave a Reply to Leslie S. Jones Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *