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  • Organization
    Emory University

  • Employment Status
    University / 4-year College Faculty - Tenure-track

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  • Biography

    Pat Marsteller directed the Emory College Center for Science Education and is a faculty member in the department of Biology at Emory. She studied evolution of animal behavior for her MS degree at University of South Carolina and evolution and quantitative genetics for her PhD at the University of Florida.  She worked with alligators for her MS thesis, investigating whether they could use the sun, the moon and the stars to navigate. Her dissertation research focused on a quantitative genetic analysis, using with fruit flies as a model system, to investigate genetic and environmental influence on life history patterns and traits such as longevity and quantity and timing of reproduction. She has taught courses evolution, Darwin and the idea of evolution and many other courses over her 30 years of college teaching.  She also works with college and pre-college faculty on developing curriculum materials and on using active learning strategies in the teaching of science and mathematics. She is the PI of the ScienceCasenetwork and NeuroCaseNet and a helper on HITS and Molecular CaseNet.

     Pat’s grand project is to prepare Faculty of the Future to teach well, to be creative, to be excellent mentors. She believes that we all have a responsibility to educate the public about science. Her other grand project relates to increasing diversity in science...She is in charge of special programs to increase success for underrepresented groups, women and first genration students at undergraduate, graduate, postdoc and faculty levels. support for these initiatives comes from NSF, HHMI, and NIH.  She is co-PI of the Emory Initiative for Maximizing Student Development project, among many projects that support student research.

    Draft Undergraduate STEM Education 2040: An Optimists Perspective

    The intersecting crises of 2020 (covid, antiracist protests and climate change) finally led faculty groups and funders to a social justice agenda for STEM education. Thousands of faculty read Ibram Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist and began to realize that open education resources (OER) and open pedagogy (OP) were needed to address the racial and ethnic disparities in health, impacts of climate change, and institutional practices.  A revolution began!

    Graduate and postdoctoral programs added Social Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to professional development programs.  NSF reinstated the GK12 program and created a new Graduate-Undergraduate curriculum development program.  Institutions moved from general statements about social justice and serving all students to investing in reward systems and data tools to assess progress toward a just system that serves society. All types of institutions, community colleges, liberal arts institutions and research focused institution have over these years established networks and partnerships and formal transfer agreements. Faculty tenure and promotion guidelines were revised to include public scholarship and reflection on open pedagogies and professional development in applying social justice principles.  Discipline based education faculty were hired (on tenure track) in nearly every department. Since that watershed year our faculties have become more diverse and our curricula have changed.

    The movement to integrate research into STEM courses developed into a movement to include students as co-creators of curricular materials.  Faculty worked together across departmental boundaries to assess content, curricular frameworks, and applications of each course and program to society.  Science literacy, data literacy, and application to social issues took priority.

    Revised materials called for all people to be represented in texts and OER materials. and current research.

    As a result, now in 2040 students not only feel welcomed as learners but enabled to be content creators and researchers from the first course. From the first course, students now learn to critique and evaluate knowledge claims. Our STEM courses are better coordinated and they incorporate visualization, research design and models, but they also examine the ethics of scientific practices and the social justice implications of historical and future science and application. Our faculties are more diverse and representative and thus constantly bring new perspectives to our teaching and research missions.

    Our classrooms are now more open spaces that support the evidence based active learning practices and enable collaborative teams to create new knowledge. Our institutions intersect closely with local communities and our students investigate and solve problem with local community groups. 

    From the very first course, we teach students to think like scientists, to evaluate and weigh evidence, to communicate clearly and to place scientific data in context.  Instead of focusing on science as a body of knowledge, we allow students to inquire, investigate and communicate. Inquiry-based approaches such as problem-based learning (PBL) and investigative case-based learning (ICBL) have documented success in enhancing conceptual understanding and increasing skills in problem solving, critical thinking, communication and self-assessment. By using complex, authentic problems to trigger investigation in lab and library, our students develop critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborative skills. These methods allow students to experience science integrated with other disciplines such as mathematics (graphs, statistics), history (social, economic and political context of the issue), and language arts (conveying research results) and enhance their capacity for creative and responsible real-world problem solving. Inquiry science courses integrate ethical dimensions of science. Debates on cloning, DNA testing, limits of prediction, and potential perils as well as benefits of science deepen understanding for all students.  Combining such approaches with practice in communicating science to different audiences creates engaged scholars and a scientifically literate public.

    We have made great strides in moving from incremental interventions to systemic, structural and lasting change. Our majors now provide a more diverse STEM workforce and generate new ideas that are improving health, quality f life and discovery for all peoples and parts of the globe.  Our non-majors leave still loving and exploring science and they learn to critique and evaluate knowledge claims about health, vaccines and evolution.  Our STEM courses are better coordinated and they incorporate visualization, research design and models, but they also examine the ethics of scientific practices and the social justice implications of past

    We have not yet solved all the inequities in K-12 or undergraduate education or in health disparities in local communities, but we have come a long way.  The experiments in education are now bolder, the future looks more just, more equitable and more creative.

    OK...How's that???

    Prior to arriving at Emory in 1990, Pat taught at large state universities and tiny liberal arts colleges.  This experience gave her the opportunity to teach nearly every course in Biology.  She loves teaching because transmitting the joys (and trials) of the process of science to students gives them the tools for lifelong learning and discovery.  Science is not merely a body of accumulated facts and theories, but an exhilarating process of discovery.  Good teachers are constant learners, inventing, creating and discovering new ways to facilitate learning.  As her friend John Jungck says, “teachers must move from the position of sage on the stage to guide on the side.”  Learning is an active process- students are not vessels into which we pour our accumulated wisdom; they are participants is generating, constructing and linking knowledge by placing new content in the context of what they know and by developing critical analysis skills so that they can generate reasonable hypotheses, test them, analyze carefully and draw reasonable conclusions.  Good teachers and good students should “Question Authority” as the bumper sticker on her door suggests.  Don’t just believe!  Delve into it, connect, apply, and make it your own!

    Pat is a member of the Biology faculty and the NBB faculty and directs the Hughes Undergraduate Science Initiative and our Emory College Center for Science Education. She is  the oldest of 11 kids.  She is married to Fred Marsteller, who is a consultant in Biostatistics and Research Design.  Her son Sean was the founding Director of LearnLink.  He and his wife now live in Canada.


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