BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium

Summer Workshop for Undergraduate Faculty

June 20 - 28, 1998

Persuasion in Biology

College, University, and Community College
Faculty Development Workshop

Ten years ago, Dr. Stanley Prusiner, the winner of this yearís Nobel Prize in medicine, read an article in Discover magazine that he found so personally derogative, he refused to talk to another journalist from that point on. The press, eager to report information to the world about the cause of diseases such as the recently publicized mad cow disease, found Prusinerís refusal to communicate frustrating, particlarly when the idea of the existence of prions grew in acceptance. Reporters called him to provide information to their readers about Prusinersís discovery and the subsequent impact of his work in the world of medicine as more and more illnesses are linked to these unique, disease-causing protein agents. Prusinerís decision not to talk to writers presents an important lesson to biology students, majors and non-majors alike. The communication of science requires that scientists, journalists, and other members of the communication field learn to write and speak with clarity and sensitivity.

Science writing is an acquired skill. Scientists cannot be successful in their field unless they learn to write. In order to write and speak science, our students must first learn to think science. The art of persuasion, both oral and written is often left solely to the domain of the English Department. Yet persuasion is an important part of science. Support for projects are sought through proposals, team members and committees must convinced of the significance of the problem, results must be communicated. Persuasion plays an important role at all stages of problem solving in biology, yet often neglected in our biology curricula, despite being at the heart of science. How should persuasion, both as a topic and as an action, be incorporated in undergraduate biology curricula?

The next BioQUEST Curriculum summer workshop will focus on the role of persuasion in biology. Participants will examine the process of writing, communication, and interpretation in science and apply this knowledge to the design of curriculum and instruction in undergraduate biology.

The workshop will be held June 20 - 28, 1998 at Beloit College located near the border between Wisconsin and Illinois. During the workshop, participants will look at ways that science is communicated and understood. BioQUEST software will be used as a to create problem spaces where participants will experience the activity of persuasion as many undergraduate students do. The use of language and visual representations in scientific papers, posters, as well as publications for more general audiences, such as science magazines and news articles will be examined and analyzed. Workshop participants will have the opportunity to address questions such as the following:

What should our students learn about the science writing, communication, and the use of information?
How can we more effectively help our majors learn to write scientific papers and to communicate effectively with the press and public?
What are characteristics of good science writing?
How can we help our non-majors read and write critically about science and scientists?
Where in their curricular experience should these issues be addressed and how?

To apply to the summer workshop, please send a letter of application answering the following questions. Be sure to include your e-mail address and telephone number along with your regular U.S. mail address.

1. Have you reviewed or used any software published in volumes I-IV of The BioQUEST Library?

2. What courses have you taught or are currently teaching?

3. How much writing and presenting do your students currently do in your biology courses?

4. How do you anticipate sharing what you have learned at this summer workshop with colleagues?

5. Will you be needing travel support to attend the workshop?

Mail, e-mail or fax your application before April 1, 1998 to:

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium

Department of Biology

Beloit College, Box 181

700 College Street

Beloit, WI 53511


fax: 608-363-5052