Welcome to the Sirum Group Biology Education Research and Development (BERD) Home Page

Research Areas

Research in Biology Education allows our group to focus on key objectives related to the improvement of student learning in the sciences. Our goals are in line with the notion and well-documented research regarding the importance of a scientifically literate citizen, and the fact that all higher education institutions rank development of critical thinking skills as one of the main goals for their students. Further, our research aims to identify how scientific skills and abilities contribute to generalized critical thinking and reasoning skills, and how best to transform the classroom, curriculum and the academic culture to improve student learning in the sciences. Our projects reflect a coordinated and integrated focus on these goals.

Development and Assessment of Students' Scientific Thinking Skills

students_ST_4.jpg students_ST_2.jpg student_ST_1.jpgOur research program encompasses two main areas in which we study development of science thinking skills and work to bring interactive engagement teaching strategies and inquiry-based laboratory experiences to the gateway biology courses, including the large lecture hall. Specifically, the first research area involves introductory biology course redesign and the development of new assessment instruments. These include the Experimental Design Ability Test (EDAT) and the Analysis of Data Ability Test (ADAT) which are used to measure, in pre/posttest format, students’ scientific thinking skills, and the Molecular Evolution Literacy Quotient used to assess understanding of the role of DNA in evolution (see Current Research Projects).

Research on Faculty Instructional Development

FLC_resized.jpgIn addition to research on student learning, I also investigate how best to help faculty and future faculty approach their teaching as they do their research—scientifically and based on the literature on how people learn. To this end my science background in biology with 20 years research experience in biochemistry and molecular biology allows me to bridge the teaching and research gap in the sciences. We have designed and facilitated 10 one-year long Scientific Teaching Learning Communities (STLCs) involving a combined total of ~150 science faculty and future faculty who are all now trying new interactive teaching strategies in their classrooms. In STLCs, 8-15 participants meet regularly over the academic year to share resources and ideas, and to provide support and a forum for talking about teaching. Through a structured agenda we developed and facilitate, we identify reading materials for faculty participants, design interactive activities, lead structured discussions, and follow up after each session with additional resources and online discussions related to issues and questions that arise during the sessions (see Current Research Projects).

Transformation of the Large (and Small) Enrollment Introductory Biology Course

lecture_2.jpgTransforming how we prepare our future biology faculty is a primary interest of mine. Consequently, I design and teach a graduate level Biology Department course called "Teaching College Biology." The intent of this course is to help biology graduate students learn about the teaching and learning research literature and gain practice in pedagogical strategies. In addition, I supervise a Biology Education R&D group that involves undergraduate Learning Assistants who assist in the active learning lecture hall, and Masters and PhD Biological Sciences graduate students who are getting their Biology degrees in Biology Education Research, thereby helping to prepare the next generation of science faculty (see Research Group Members and Teaching Philosophy).


sirum.jpgI am an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Currently, my research addresses questions regarding the development of evidence-based reasoning skills for all students. I focus on questions pertaining to introductory course redesign, design and implementation of assessment strategies, and how people and organizations change to better understand how best to help faculty and future faculty approach their teaching as they do their research--scientifically and based on the literature on how people learn. I am a founding member of the Society for Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER), on the advisory board of the Association for College and University Biology Educators (ACUBE), an Associate Editor for "Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching", and a member of the Professional and Organizational Development Network (POD Network). I earned my PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from Dartmouth College, and did Post Doctoral research in yeast molecular genetics at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and later in cell biology at the Life Sciences Institute at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Prior to my current position as a Science Faculty member with Education Specialty at BGSU, my research focused on ribosomal RNA biochemistry as a faculty member in the Chemistry Department at Eastern Michigan University.

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