Bob Chen ~ Urban Oceanographer

COSEE China workshop

Enhancing the Value of Education
and Outreach

"You have to change the way your peers think about this work, you have to have a cultural change among your colleagues."
Working in education and outreach doesn't just have impacts on the students in the classroom, it also impacts the scientists themselves, and in turn can impact the wider culture in the academic institution where the scientist is based. A lot of what Dr. Bob Chen and his colleagues tried while developing the Boston Science Partnership has changed the way they teach their own undergraduate and graduate level classes. After experimenting with pedagogical techniques and finding what worked - i-clickers, group learning, peer instruction, jigsawing, scaffolding - they got the confidence to use these techniques in their own teaching, knowing they could be implemented at any scale. And this has made them better teachers.

Talking Points to Inspire Shifting Values
  • At professional meetings, give examples of how to use this experience to your advantage
  • Model how to talk about your work in E&O
  • Publications and presentations within the field of E&O can count toward tenure and promotion
  • Junior faculty can talk about their experience
  • Experience in E&O brings change in:
    • Your undergraduate and graduate teaching
    • Collaboration potential
    • Grant potential
    • Collaborative research proposals
    • Collaborative education proposals
They learned from observing K-12 teachers, for whom the goal is to have every student pass, to aim for higher pass rates in their own undergraduate classes. "There are undergraduate courses where the passing rate has gone from 50 percent to 90 percent because of the way the course is taught," says Bob. "Because of an understanding that people learn in different ways."

This process has also gotten them to think about science differently, resulting in different proposals and different collaborations. Their research may focus more on the core concept or fundamental understanding that's missing. In turn, as more faculty begin to be affected by their work in education and outreach, they begin to shape the values held by the university.

"Working with the local school district becomes valued; there is an understanding that you are learning from your work with teachers, learning about pedagogy," says Bob. "There are higher expectations for your own teaching, and that you might get some grants that you may not have gotten before, which helps support your lab." And ultimately, as more faculty who have experienced the benefits of working in education and outreach become active members of search committees, the science faculty as a whole begins to reflect these values.