Evidence-based teaching, open access, and the digital divide

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Sandra Porter
I had some strange notions when I made the jump from working at the lab bench to teaching at the white board. I thought good teaching meant interesting lectures. And I was completely unaware that people actually conducted research in science education. If I had been asked about education research, I would have replied that it was largely anecdotal, probably limited to sociologists and primary grades, and as far as I was concerned, useless.

And, honestly, to me it was useless.

I never saw any of science education articles or journals. No other instructors every discussed them and naturally, I concluded that they didn't exist.

Okay, I was ignorant.

But I still think those attitudes are more the norm than the exception.


Science instructors are often unaware of the findings from education research because they don't see them. The instructors who do much of the college teaching, those at our nation's community colleges, have little access to this kind of information.


It's not either not accessible or it's not indexed by our favorite search tools.

If I use PubMed Central for example, and I browse the PMC journal list with the word "education," I find only four journals (CBE Life Sciences Education is listed twice because they changed names):



Only one of these journals concerns teaching science to undergraduates.

If I use Google, I find lots of things, but I can't read any of them on-line.

Very few science education journals are open access. Journals like "Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education," and "Journal of natural resources and life sciences education" and "Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education," keep their articles locked away, out of public view.

And certainly away from most instructors.

I find it appalling that in a day and age, when we're struggling to teach students how to think like scientists, we have so little access to the tools that would help us practice these principles in our own daily work.  College instructors need to become more familiar with the concepts and benefits of evidence-based teaching. That familiarity would develop more easily if college instructors had more access to the results of education research.

If we are ever to use science to help us teach science, if evidence-based teaching is ever to replace teaching by anecdote, we're going to need to share strategies and information, not lock them away.

Inspired by Geeky Mom.

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