Last summer, I had the good fortune to attend a conference in Washington D.C. on Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology education. There were lots of inspiring speeches, cool videos, and talks about building more student-centered classrooms and strategies for change.
Surprisingly, many of the attendees seemed unaware that there is a group of instructors, and educational programs who embody this vision, albeit with a bit of twist.
These are the biotech instructors and biotech education programs at the community colleges.
Many of the ideas described at the Vision and Change conference as our goals are already common practice in community college biotech programs.
Hands-on labs with authentic science? We got 'em.
Asking students for their opinion? This is new?
Part of the reason that community colleges can be more innovative is that there are fewer constraints. We don't have 300 person lecture classes. We don't have to prepare our students for the MCAT or GRE.
We also have a different attitude. We don't view a job in the biotech industry as "dropping out of science." Since community college programs measure their success by their employment stats, they have to innovate, focus on what needs to be taught, and teach it well. You don't cut your lab classes when your students are going to evaluated by their work in the lab.
This summer, Suzie Montgomery from Utah Public Radio interviewed biotech instructors, who came from across the U.S. to attend the Bio-Link Summer Fellows Forum. Her 30 minute radio interview provides more insight as the Bio-Link educators tell their story.