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1999 Sigma Xi Forum

Reshaping Undergraduate Science and Engineering Education:
Tools for Better Learning

November 4-5, 1999, Hyatt Regency, Minneapolis, MN
In conjunction with the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting, November 5-7, 1999.

Inquiry-based learning in undergraduate education will be the focus of the 1999 Sigma Xi Forum which will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 4-5 in conjunction with Sigma Xiís annual meeting. This conference will allow educators and administrators from academia and industry to experience innovative science instruction, experiment with state-of-the-art educational products and discuss a variety of models for institutional reform, science curriculum and pedagogy.

Leaders in both science and education have recognized that producing a scientifically literate population will require that, "all students have access to supportive, excellent undergraduate education in science, mathematics, engineering and technology, and all students learn these subjects by direct experience with the methods and processes of inquiry" (Shaping the Future, NSF 96-139). New initiatives in science, mathematics, engineering and technology education benefit both the scientific community and society in general by including more citizens in the scientific enterprise.

The teaching methods that are effective in providing this education are now established and many excellent examples of best practices are available. The 1999 Sigma Xi forum will both explore and employ these best practices.

Goals: The meeting will (1) employ principles of inquiry-based learning while exploring issues and methods associated with educational reform and (2) foster an interdisciplinary discussion of science education reform.

Audience: In addition to Sigma Xi members and chapter representatives, the forum is expected to attract participants from colleges, universities and other institutions that participate in educational partnerships that support the principles of inquiry-based learning.

Topics: Plenary lectures will introduce three major topical components of the conference: best practices, creating an environment for inquiry-based learning, and tools for better learning. Short concurrent sessions will explore various aspects of each of these themes, and discussion groups offer further opportunity for information exchange. Within these thematic areas, session topics include:

  • Inquiry in Large Classes
  • Project Based Learning
  • Inquiry in Small Classes
  • Research Experiences
  • Effecting the Cultural Change Needed to Implement Inquiry-Based Learning
  • Building Inquiry Into the Curriculum
  • Developing Partnerships
  • Accessing Databases for Inquiry-based Learning
  • Resources on the Internet
  • Digital Libraries

Tools for Assessing Inquiry-based Learning
Contributed Presentations and Demonstrations: In addition to invited presentations, the conference will feature a large component of contributed presentations. Details are enumerated in the call for presentations. Individuals may submit abstracts until July 1 (with an early review for those received by May 1). Presentations may include demonstrations of products or techniques and are subject to review by the conference organizing committee.

Format: As much as is possible, the program itself will employ the principles of active learning and, hence, will feature only a few traditional plenary talks from leaders in undergraduate science education reform, followed by concurrent sessions addressing those issues in more detail. At the hub of the meeting, poster presentations and demonstrations will highlight hands-on activities and the latest technological tools for inquiry-based learning across the disciplines. Roundtable discussion groups will address various aspects of inquiry-based learning and will feature moderators including educators, researchers and administrators who have catalyzed or facilitated change in institutions of various types.

Web-based Resources: In conjunction with the planning for this conference, staff will be building an Education Resource Page on the Sigma Xi Web site. Individuals with suggested hotlinks may submit them to forum@sigmaxi.org or via the interactive form on the Resource Page. Additionally, a directory of Internet resources will actually be built in real time during the forum with contributions from participants. Finally, many presentations that take place at the forum will be recorded and available for access via the web site following the forum.


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