December 4, 1995
Jim asked me to prepare a position paper dealing with the problems we discussed in our last meeting, but I have no position. Partly because I have no experience with undergraduate teaching at UBC beyond the first year (except an upper-division service course), it would be foolish for me to propose solutions at this time (I think it would be foolish for you to propose them too). Besides, I am new to this committee, only two or three of you have ever seen me teach, and I have seen few of you teach. Clearly it would be premature for me to make suggestions about individual courses within our program. As well, other than serving as a faculty advisor for ecology students and supplying students to later courses, I know little about the Biology Program. So my role cannot be to solve problems.
One operating principle in science is that it is easier to solve problems if we know what they are. I believe that it is not yet time to reinvent lower-division teaching of biology because we have not yet agreed on the problems we must solve or what we want our students to take with them when they leave us. More basically, we have not yet identified principles by which we could reinvent the Biology Program. To this end I will suggest some very basic ideas about teaching and learning in general, and about teaching and learning science. Some of the ideas address problems raised in the memos you produced, and I can see many possibilities for action. For now, though, I suggest that we discuss fundamentals. Here I will express ideas in the context of our current situation, without directly addressing the situation. That will come soon enough. My intention at this stage is not to attempt to solve educational problems, but to establish a basis for defining them. I want to stimulate discussion that is deeply-enough grounded in learning theory to support developing a deeply-grounded approach to lower-division teaching and learning.