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Dr. Wood presents special workshop in Denver

Dr. Bonnie Wood, Professor of Biology at the University of Maine at Presque, was recently in Denver, Colorado, to present a Special Workshop entitled Lecture-Free Teaching: A Learning Partnership between Science Educators and their Students at the 2009 Professional Development Conference of the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT). Each participant received a copy of Dr. Wood’s newly-published book of the same title (NSTA Press, 2009), the cost of which was included in the Special Workshop fee. The book was used as a workbook during the session.

During the first half of the four-hour workshop, participants assumed the role of students during a simulation of a typical class meeting of a college biology course. Dr. Wood demonstrated the interplay of student preparation before class, cooperative learning, and classroom assessment techniques to achieve course content identical to that of a lecture-based course. Wood explained that this is accomplished with little or no additional cost. During the second half of the workshop, participants discussed and followed the thirteen steps to lecture-free teaching (as described in her book) to plan their own course revision or design a new course.

Emphasizing inquiry-based learning and the application of the scientific method, Dr. Wood teaches all of her college science courses using lecture-free pedagogy. In addition, she erased the boundaries between “lecture” and laboratory portions of her sections of both introductory and upper level courses: Rather than teaching them at separate times and locations, she interweaves two traditional parts of a college science course into two three-hour participative class meetings each week that convene in the laboratory. If an educator is uncomfortable with a completely lecture-free format, she describes how to incorporate these methods on a more limited basis by alternating ten- or fifteen-minute lectures with a variety of active learning and peer instruction exercises and by using inquiry-based laboratory exercises.

Dr. Wood said she was pleased that the workshop was overenrolled with 42 registrants. The audience was a mixture of national and international high school and college biology educators who were very participative and easily filled the four hours with a constant stream of questions. Dr. Wood also attended excellent presentations by others during the four-day conference, including an all-day Stem Cell Summit featuring 2007 Nobel Prize Winner Mario Capecci.

For more information about Dr. Wood’s workshops for science educators and her book, email her at bonnie.s.wood@maine.edu.