dB-SERC lunch discussion
Topic: Supporting interdisciplinary learning: Experiences and results from teaching physics to life science students
When: Wednesday, April 3 from 12 - 1 pm [NOTE: DIFFERENT DAY]
Where: 321 Allen Hall

During the lunch discussion, Dr. Catherine Crouch from Swathmore College will discuss instruction in "service" courses where an interdisciplinary approach can be motivating and effective for students.

Research suggests that one aspect of helping students learn content effectively is to tap into sources of student interest, such as relevance to other areas that are already of interest to the students (for example, Hulleman & Harackiewicz, 2009) and to present learning the material as valuable to the student beyond succeeding in that particular course (for example, Engle, Nguyen, and Mendelson, 2011). This is a particularly pertinent consideration for undergraduate “service” courses, such as physics for life science students or engineering students, calculus for physics or engineers, or statistics for the social sciences, in which students taking the course have already identified a strong interest in another subject and are in the course to meet a requirement. In this talk, I present our approach to teaching introductory physics for life science students, in which we seek to develop strong connections between physics and the life sciences, to foster students’ beliefs that drawing on physics will be useful to them in their future studies and careers in the life sciences, as well as giving them the skills to do so. I will describe the design of our course, give the results of our assessment indicating that its interdisciplinary nature is indeed important and motivating to students, and finally describe the key elements of the process of working with faculty in biology, biochemistry, and medicine to develop this course.

Dr. Catherine Crouch is a professor in the Department of Physics at Swarthmore College. She joined the department in September of 2003 after both her Ph.D. and postdoc at Harvard University. She is the faculty director of Swarthmore’s Natural Sciences & Engineering Inclusive Excellence Initiatives, and she is currently serving as the Vice-Chair of the American Physical Society Forum on Education.
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