Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

iScience program garners $250 grant for peer mentoring and interdisciplinarity

The W.M. Keck Foundation has awarded Willamette University a $250,000 grant to support iScience, a program designed to promote greater interdisciplinary work in undergraduate science education at Willamette and other colleges and universities in the region.

The grant will support development of a peer-mentoring network at Willamette and with several other Northwest schools, with plans to eventually expand beyond the region.

Through one-on-one mentoring between faculty Keck Fellows, collaborative meetings to discuss science teaching and assessment, and hands-on summer workshops, the iScience program will encourage professors to re-examine the way they approach science teaching and curriculum development while helping to create a repository of best practices for use by all.

“Everything we do is with an eye toward improving science education for all students, not just those majoring in science fields,” says psychology Professor Mark Stewart, who leads the program along with exercise science Professor Stasinos Stavrianeas. “For some students, science literacy may culminate at the science page of the New York Times; for others, it may extend all the way through graduate training in a scientific field.

“iScience encompasses a range of strategies to reach all learners, and our project brings science faculty together to share experiences and expertise so we can cultivate a comprehensive approach to science education at Willamette and beyond.”

By collaborating with science faculty at other universities, the professors can share best practices and use them to redevelop courses or entire department curricula at their home campuses, Stewart says.

“We expect that through this process, faculty will develop new materials to improve content delivery, numeracy, interdisciplinarity and communications, both written and oral,” he says.