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Issues-Based Framework for
Bio 101: Background

Sharon L. Zablotney

When the CELS II participants convened at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin, in February 1992, science education appeared to be in a permanent state of chaos. Our conversations were dominated by the poor performance of high school graduates on national and international examinations, diminished interest among college students in pursuing advanced study in the sciences, and a university reward system that did not recognize faculty efforts to improve the educational experience.

Dr. Sharon L. Zablotney is a past chair of the Board of Education and Training of the American Society of Microbiology. She was also chair of the planning committee for the initial CELS conference. Dr. Zablotney is now a professor of Biology at the State University of New York, College of Fredonia.

Conversely, it was an exceptional time in science. Our knowledge and understanding of the natural world was being enhanced exponentially, with the life sciences leading the way. The daily newspapers displayed the centrality of the life sciences to our everyday lives. We were bewildered that our students were not impressed with all the wonderment of science and that they found science sterile and irrelevant to their lives.

Responding to this dichotomy, the CELS II participants outlined a course of action for decision makers seeking change in science education [4]. But our intent was not to limit this change to the administration of science education; we reached further. We embraced the very essence of the educational process C the curriculum, educational methodologies, and expected learning outcomes.

Through an issues-based framework, the CELS II participants illustrated a curricular strategy that they believed would portray the centrality of the life sciences to society. We identified six critical issues: wellness, shaping/reshaping life, overpopulation, resource utilization, alteration of natural systems, and functional/dysfunctional behavior. These issues embodied the life science principles that we believed define the life sciences and their relationship to society. While these issues were not perceived as a limiting list, we did believe that the future of our society and our world would depend upon how our students addressed them.

Editor's note: The members of the 1997-1998 CELS Steering Committee are pleased to find that the "Issues-Based Framework for Bio 101" remains as fresh and vital as it was in 1992. The need for a framework for contemporary introductory biology curricula is still critical today. Consequently, the life sciences community is asked to reflect on the critical components of biology to which all students should be introduced during their undergraduate years. We invite each professional society to identify instructional materials that will help students acquire the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are needed by an informed citizenry. Furthermore, we call upon professional societies to join together to bring greater coherence and articulation to the introductory courses in the life sciences.

 

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