Engineering High School Biology into the 21st Century

Presenter: Christian Schunn
This session introduces an approach to teaching core high school biology concepts (inheritance and evolution) involving engineering design challenges. Students solve the challenges using inexpensive hands-on materials that integrate modern biotechnologies and simple computational simulations. Research stemming from the Biology Levers Out of Mathematics (BLOOM) project has shown that high school students taught through engineering challenges see a doubling in interest in engineering careers as well as large gains in science learning, particularly for students traditionally underrepresented in science.

Christian Schunn, Senior Scientist and Professor of Psychology, Learning Sciences and Policy, and Intelligent Systems, University of Pittsburgh
Christian Schunn is a senior scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center and a professor of psychology, learning sciences and policy, and intelligent systems at the University of Pittsburgh. He directs a number of research projects in science, engineering, and mathematics education. The BLOOM project, one of his current NSF-funded grants, brings engineering-based modules—focused on core biology topics—into mainstream high school biology instruction. The modules, designed for large-scale urban settings, will be developed by a collaborative team that brings expertise in learning sciences, engineering education, mathematics education, and biology. The project studies the ways in which teacher materials and various Web-based tools can support high-quality implementation at scale. In the past, Schunn has developed curriculum materials that used engineering design projects to teach core high school science concepts for use in urban middle schools and high schools, including biology, chemistry, and physics. He has also worked for many years with the Robotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon University on the design and evaluation of robotics curricula that teach mathematics concepts in middle school and early high school. Schunn was made a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2011, and served on the National Research Council and National Academy of Engineering committees for K–12 Engineering Education and K–12 Engineering Education Standards. He is also the current chair of the executive committee of the International Society for Design and Development in Education. Schunn received his BS in Psychology from McGill University and both his MS and PhD in Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University.