Bringing History into the Lab: A New Approach to Scientific Learning in General Education

Saturday, January 4, 2020: 8:30 AM
Gramercy West (New York Hilton)
David Brandon Dennis, Dean College
Rob Alan Lawson, Dean College
Jessica M. Pisano, Dean College
Funded by a two-year curricular development grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a team of two historians and one biologist at Dean College has created and implemented two courses that bring historical pedagogy into the science laboratory. Although we aimed for these courses to serve majors in science and medical fields, we chose to embed them within the general education curriculum, in order to create new learning opportunities for all students on campus. Dean is a four-year, private liberal arts institution in Franklin, MA, which attracts a diverse array of underserved student populations. Specifically, we developed the courses—one in the history of science and one in the history of medicine—during AY2017-2018 and then implemented them during AY2018-2019. They are fully integrated with laboratory instruction. The first course, “History of Science,” takes a general survey approach, both in lecture and lab, covering a variety of scientific disciplines. The second course, “Beyond Henrietta Lacks,” narrows the focus to issues of race and medicine in American history in lecture and to related scientific and medical concepts in a cell biology lab. In both courses, students attend a lecture (covering historical and scientific concepts) with an attached lab, in which they perform or simulate historical experiments. We hypothesize that this combination will improve student learning outcomes, learning experiences, and attitudes toward science. Using a variety of assessment instruments, we have generated a body of qualitative and quantitative data on student learning, experiences, and attitudes across the first year of this new general education curriculum, which we intend to share with colleagues through this paper.
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