November 2011

Changing the way we focus on student-centered gains in understanding

Regional RCN-UBE workshops will be held at Moravian College in Pennsylvania, at Northeastern University in Massachusetts, at Hope College in Holland, Mich., and in the San Diego and Knoxville, Tenn., areas over the next six months or so. A virtual meeting will be held in May.

At the ASBMB annual meeting in April, there will be a symposium the morning of April 24 featuring talks on “Defining Foundational Principles and Concepts,” “Developing Assessments for Foundational Concepts,” and “Helping Students to Access and Assess Knowledge” as well as short talks selected from submitted abstracts. The symposium will be followed in the afternoon by an RCN-UBE working group meeting and workshop (open to anyone) that will focus in more detail on assessment-tool development.

A call to action

So, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan (10), “Come gather ’round, people” – after all, the project is all about network building for a common cause – “for the times they are a-changin’.”

Vision and Change is a call to action, and we need everyone interested in student-centered education in the molecular life sciences to join the discussion. If you are planning to be at the ASBMB annual meeting in San Diego, submit an abstract on your ideas of how to assess student understanding and take the opportunity to get involved in the RCN-UBE project.


1. “Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action,” AAAS, 2011.
2. Handelsman, J., S. Miller, and C. Pfund. 2007. Scientific Teaching. W. H. Freeman, New York. Hartberg, Y., A. B. Gunersel, N. J.Simspon, and V. Balester. 2008.
3. Development of student writing in biochemistry using calibrated peer review. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 2: 29 – 44.
4. Wiggins, G., and J. McTighe. 2005. Understanding by Design, 2nd edition. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, Virginia.
5. Bailey, Cheryl, Ellis Bell, Margaret Johnson, Carla Mattos, Duane Sears, and Harold B. White. “Student-centered education: commentary: biochemistry and molecular biology educators launch national network,” Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education.
6. Voet, J.G., E. Bell, R. Boyer, J. Boyle, J.K. Zimmerman and M. O’Leary, “Recommended curriculum for a program in biochemistry and molecular biology,” 31: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 2003.
7. Bell, Ellis: “Ability to recite fails to excite.” Times Higher Education: 14 July 2000.
8. Bell, Ellis. “The future of education in the molecular life sciences.” Nature Reviews, Vol. 2, 221 – 225, 2001.
9. Aristotle. “Rhetoric.” BC 350. 
10. Bob Dylan. “Times They Are A-Changing,” 1964.

Ellis-BellJ. Ellis Bell ( is professor of chemistry at the University of Richmond. 

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