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The BioQUEST
Curriculum Consortium

Board of Advisors

Maura Flannery, Chair (St. John’s University)

Mario Caprio (Volunteer State Community College)
Donna Haraway (University of California at Santa Cruz)
Patricia Marsteller (Emory University)
Presley Martin (Hamline University)
Ronald Stevens (University of California at Los Angeles)
Daniel Udovic (University of Oregon)

The Three P's of Science Education || Activities of BioQUEST

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is a community of bioscience educators and researchers who are interested in undergraduate science curricular reform. Since its inception in 1986, the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium has grown to a community of more than 5000 members who are interested in issues related to teaching and learning biology, the use of technological innovation, and the potential impact of these technologies on learning theory and the structure of schools. Members of the consortium represent a diverse range of subject areas as well as educational levels. The largest percentage of members is from colleges and universities, but the number of middle school and high school educators is rapidly growing.

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium offers a framework for thinking about curricular issues in science education based on a belief that students learn science most effectively when they are provided with opportunities to solve complex problems using the same methodologies and reasoning skills that research scientists use. In other words, students should have the opportunity to develop the long-term strategies of inquiry that sustain and guide practicing scientists. This philosophical framework has become known as the BioQUEST 3P’s of science education: that is, that science, and therefore science learning, involves Problem-posing, Problem-solving, and the Persuasion of peers.

3P’s of Science Education

Problem-Posing. To understand science as it is practiced, students must have the opportunity to grapple with the difficulties involved in formulating good research questions. Students need to gain appreciation of how problem posing in the field or lab differs from solving already well-formulated exercises in a textbook. What makes a problem worth pursuing? Why are some questions “better” than others? How can students begin to understand the multiple issues involved in the posing of a problem, including interest, significance, feasibility, and the special problems that result when bias creeps into problem-posing?

Problem-Solving. Science education must challenge students’ belief that every problem must have a “right” answer. When students become engaged in complex problems, they can experience and appreciate the nature of scientific answers and learn to develop heuristics for achieving closure to scientific problems. They learn to entertain multiple competing hypotheses and make inferences over a long series of experimental observations. By learning via research and research-like experiences, students come to understand that scientists develop hypotheses as provisional solutions rather than final answers. Research may be concluded for a variety of reasons, including constraints on time and resources, but most importantly when the research team is satisfied that their research provides an adequate solution to the problem being investigated.

Persuading Peers. Research is not complete, no matter how many experiments have been conducted, until peers outside of the research team are persuaded that the solution to the particular problem is adequate—that is, has both internal logical consistency and consistency with appropriate, accepted knowledge in the discipline. Students must participate in the social processes of persuasion if they are to understand the nature of the construction of scientific theories. They need to participate in peer review as a professional activity. The use of computer tools and simulations can aid student groups in easily transferring their data, graphics, working hypotheses, and analyses into word-processing, spreadsheet, and graphics software to build scientific journal-style manuscripts which can be reviewed by student editorial boards and published in student-run journals or on the World Wide Web.

Activities of The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is involved in a wide range of activities within the science education community. These include:

  • publishing The BioQUEST Library CD, including facilitating the fieldtesting and review of existing modules;
  • recruiting new modules for the Library and collaborating with authors in the development of their modules;
  • development of new software and textual material that supports a research-oriented approach to biology education;
  • research in science education focusing on investigatory and collaborative learning strategies and problem-solving in the biological sciences;
  • organizing workshops for biology educators to explore 3P’s approaches and resources for learning;
  • publishing BioQUEST Notes, the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium’s newsletter, a forum for bioscience educators;
  • collaborating with other groups involved in bioscience education, including the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), the Association of College and University Biology Educators (ACUBE), the Botany Society of America (BSA), the Society of Mathematical Biology (SMB), the Coalition for Education in the Life Sciences (CELS), The Concord Consortium, the American Society of Microbiologists (ASM), and the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology (ISHPSSB);
  • editing a collaborative book (in preparation) describing the use of several of The BioQUEST Library modules and the BioQUEST 3P’s philosophy in a variety of classrooms;
  • integrating the use of case studies in the classroom that enable students to develop lifelong learning strategies in defining problems and exploring issues using a variety of resources;
  • producing the BioQUEST web site (http://bioquest.org), a resource for those wishing to learn more about BioQUEST, its philosophy, history, current activities, and future projects.

For information on how you can participate in the activities of the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium or to receive BioQUEST Notes, please contact:

BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium
Ethel D. Stanley, Director
Beloit College
700 College Street
Beloit, WI 53511


BioQUEST@beloit.edu || http://bioquest.org