In the Summer 2014 issue of Science Education and Civic Engagement: An International Journal, you will find four very different approaches to the impact, both locally and internationally, of science education on civic life. In a strong example of the scholarship of teaching and learning Elizabeth Olcese, Gerald Kobylski, and Charles Elliott of the U.S. Military Academy and Joseph Shannon of South Seattle College, have documented their systematic and research-based approach to developing a valid assessment rubric for West Point’s interdisciplinary Core Program. Their article “Meeting the Challenge of Interdisciplinary Assessment,” notes that preparing students to address increasingly complex civic and societal challenges will demand a STEM-rich education that places greater emphasis on interdisciplinary courses and curricula. However, the problem of defining, and then measuring, “interdiscplinarity,” has acted as a brake on the development of programs and courses that give students essential experience in integrating and synthesizing knowledge from multiple disciplines. The detailed report of their process, and the results of their first implementation, is a valuable contribution to a larger conversation, both about efforts to increase the civic impact of STEM learning, and the strategies used to assess those innovations.
Laura Romano, Denison University contributed an article detailing the integration of service learning and civic engagement activities into an undergraduate biology course. In “Discussing the Human Life Cycle with Senior Citizens as a Service-Learning Project in an Undergraduate Developmental Biology Course,” the author describes how her students prepared posters explaining different stages of the human life cycle: gametogenesis, fertilization, embryonic development, fetal development, childhood (including adolescence), and adulthood (including senescence). Their posters were accompanied by activities designed to further engage the senior citizens who visited during a lab period at the end of the semester. While the senior citizens completed surveys, the students wrote short essays reflecting on the value of service-learning. The surveys demonstrated an increase in senior citizens’ understanding of human development as well as current issues related to the discipline. The students’ essays revealed that the project was beneficial in many ways, most notably, fostering a sense of civic responsibility among the next generation of scientists.
In “Science Bowl Academic Competitions and Perceived Benefits of Engaging Students Outside the Classroom,” Robert Kuech and Robert Sanford of the University of Southern Maine offer a report on data they have collected on a well-established, but often overlooked and little studied, program of community-based informal science education, The National Science Bowl®. In the past 25 years over 240,000 high school and middle school students have voluntarily entered this highly competitive Department of Energy sponsored contest. To find out whether the time, discipline, and effort it takes to organize and participate in the Science Bowl is well invested, the authors surveyed the contestants in a Regional Science Bowl competition to ask what impact this program had on student learning and attitudes about science, as well as on other dispositions important to civic life, including leadership and teamwork. Their results strongly indicate that further research on the impact of The National Science Bowl competitions could yield valuable data on the impact of co-curricular and team-based efforts on students’ engagement with science.
Robert Franco, Professor of Pacific Anthropologyat Kapi’olani Community Collegein Hawai’i offers a summary of his experiences as an invited participant at two international conferences held in East and South Asia, both of which of which involved partnerships between U.S. Community Colleges and government educational initiatives in the respective countries. The first, an International Water Conference, was held at Sias University, Henan Province, China, which is a solely American owned university affiliated with both Zhenzou University and Fort Hays State University in Kansas. The conference brought together scholars and researchers from around the world to discuss the environmental and geo-political implications of climate change, droughts, and sea level change on the region’s future development, and the role that regional educational institutions and their students can play in addressing the problems. The second was a workingcoference of academic leaders seeking to establish a community college system in Mumbai, a joint project of Kapi’olani Community College, the University of Hawai’i, and the University of Mumbai. Franco’s detailed report of these important international developments highlights the importance of the US community college model to other countries as they work to develop educational systems that are immediately responsive to the civic and economic needs of their regions.
– Trace Jordan and Eliza Reilly, Editors-in-Chief
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