Committww looks a science courses[mk1]By Dorit Brenner
Dean of Science Gene M. Brown has formed the School of Science Education Committee (SSEC) to evaluate undergraduate science education, according to committee chairman Robert J. Silbey, professor of chemistry.
The committee's purpose is to "initiate and respond to proposals bearing on undergraduate education and to provide ... information and counsel on departmental views on undergraduate education," Brown said. He feels that it is "important to make sure a serious look is taken at intervals at courses."
The SSEC began meeting in October to reexamine the content of freshman science and math core courses, Silbey said. The committee hopes to eventually think about the science distribution and laboratory requirements and to consider whether a biology course should become an Institute requirement, he added.
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It would be "a good idea, in my view" for the SSEC to include a student member, Silbey said, but the committee has not yet decided whether it will do so. "I would like to have student input in a variety of forms," as well as faculty input, he added. More widespread student feedback may come from end-of-term freshman subject evaluations and from seniors' retrospective views of their freshman courses.
The SSEC should come up with initial results in the spring, Silbey said. Three other faculty committees are currently studying the humanities requirement, engineering curricula, and the establishment of an integrative program in humanities and engineering as part of a review coordinated by the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education. "We hope that our progress will be good enough so that we can mesh with the other committees," Silbey added. "We want to be able to interact with the education committees in the other two schools."
The committee will look at the material taught in freshman core courses and then evaluate whether it is presented in the best possible manner, Silbey said. Committee member Arthur P. Mattuck, professor of mathematics, described the freshman calculus courses during the SSEC's first three meetings. The SSEC will hear from the chemistry department next, and the remaining committee members will present information about their departments' courses during future meetings, he added.
Brown chose committee members from each department in the School of Science after consulting with the department heads. Other committee members include Robert A. Weinberg, professor of biology; John B. Southard, associate professor of earth and planetary sciences; Robert L. Jaffe, professor of physics; and Marsha R. Rosner, assistant professor of applied biological sciences.