Archive for the ‘News’ Category

SFSU Eden Staff Appreciation Award for Trisha DeVera

   Congratulations to Trisha DeVera, SEPAL’s Program Administrator and Resource Center Manager, on receiving the 2017 SFSU Eden Staff Award!

Interactive Whiteboards by PolyVision











SEPAL Research Team Trip to Escape Room

Tanner to Receive Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education

ANNUAL Meeting Preview Honors and Awards


  Kimberly D. Tanner

Tanner to Receive Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education

Kimberly D. Tanner, a professor in the Biology Department at San Francisco State University, will receive the Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education, for her tireless work to build local and national capacity for evidence-based teaching and biology education research.

A major thrust of Tanner’s research aims to understand the development of expertise in biology. As Erin Dolan, one of her nominators, noted, Tanner is breaking new ground with this work—drawing from diverse, relevant knowledge bases such as physics education research and cognitive science to understand how individuals at various stages of their biology training think about fundamental ideas in the discipline.

Tanner observes, “We train scientists to be outstanding researchers and then we parachute them into college and university classrooms with no training in how to effectively communicate their expertise to others.” As one consequence, the majority of students who are initially enthusiastic about science leave the field, “with disproportionate losses for women, students of color, and first-generation college- going students. Yet, we have extensive research literature from science education, psychology, and more recently discipline-based education research that if science faculty used more interactive teaching methods, we could both improve learning and prevent this loss of talent.”

At her talk in Philadelphia Tanner will discuss a new technological innovation—the Decibel Analysis for Research in Teaching tool (DART). “It’s like a Fitbit tool for faculty,” says Tanner. “If I lectured 95% of last class session, can I innovate such that I get that number down to 90% next class session?” To positively change the experience of science students, “we need large numbers of science faculty to make

small changes in their teaching, reducing the amount of lecture and increasing the amount of time that students have to talk, think, and write in class with their colleagues about the science they are learning…. Through our DART tool, we hope to support faculty in monitoring and iteratively shifting how they spend time in class with students.”

Tanner is influenced professionally by being a neuroscientist and a first-generation college student. She sees everything about evidence- based teaching and learning through the lens of neuroscience. She notes that teaching and learning are fundamentally about driving physical changes in the brain that encode long-term memories, which are then able to be retrieved in relevant situations. “If anyone should understand why we need to teach differently and move beyond only lecture approaches—and not just in classrooms, but also at conferences and in seminars—it should be scientists, especially biologists!” Tanner adds. She also sees higher education through the lens of an outsider, noting that for too long, success in school and science has depended on factors deeply rooted in aspects of culture that are tied to class, gender, and home community.

In describing her goals, Tanner states, “Through evidence-based teaching, I strive to make all science classrooms more equitable, fair, and inclusive of students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. If we as scientists want to solve the complex problems that
are facing us in the natural world…we must make our learning environments purposefully inclusive so as to retain the incredible talent from diverse communities that we are currently losing from our scientific disciplines at an alarming rate.”

Tanner will accept the award on December 4 at the ASCB|EMBO Meeting in Philadelphia. n

—Thea Clarke


Postdoctoral Position Available

Invitation to Apply for HHMI Inclusive Excellence Biology Education Postdoctoral Fellowship
at San Francisco State University

SEPAL – The Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory – at San Francisco State University (SFSU) invites applications for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology Education and Research with a strong focus nn understanding and promoting inclusion, equity, and diversity in science. The position is renewable for up to 2 years and may begin as early as January 1, 2018.

Funded by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence Award, the Biology FEST: Faculty Empowering Students in Transformations effort will engage and partner with our talented, upper-division biology majors, most of whom are first- generation college-going students, students of color, and/or transfer students. Together in collaborations with faculty, these student leaders will participate in continued transformation of the undergraduate biology experience, as peer-learning-assistants and role models in biology classrooms and as co-developers of curricular materials that highlight the importance of diversity in science.

This SEPAL Postdoctoral Fellowship position will be under the supervision of Dr. Kimberly Tanner. The Postdoctoral Fellow will collaborate in designing, collecting, and analyzing assessments to investigate the impact of the effort on student experiences in biology, including their sense of belonging and development of science identity, and on faculty teaching practices. In addition to a research role, the SEPAL Postdoctoral Fellow will also participate in day-to-day program implementation, including recruitment of participants, co-design and co-teaching of a service-learning course for participating students, planning and coordination of faculty professional development activities, and grant management and reporting.

Required and Preferred Qualifications

Required qualifications are a Ph.D. in biology or life science education and a strong interest in developing inclusive excellence in biology education scholarship and research. Experience working with diverse populations of students and faculty is essential, as is a strong interest in promoting equity and inclusion in the sciences. The abilities to prioritize tasks, to engage in long- and short-term planning, and to handle a variety of demands simultaneously are critical. Candidates must be willing and able to work a flexible schedule, including occasional travel, weekends, and extended hours during periods of intense activity. The following attributes, experiences, and knowledge are preferred: creativity and curiosity, mentorship skills, curriculum development experience, in-depth knowledge of national science education reform efforts, formal teaching experience, experience with databases, experience in developing assessments, and qualitative and quantitative assessment analysis skills. We seek a self-motivated, creative individual who has excellent interpersonal, writing, and public speaking skills who can work both

SEPAL: The Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory Department of Biology, San Francisco State University Fall 2017

independently and as part of a team effort and who will bring new perspectives to our efforts to promote inclusion in science.

San Francisco State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action
Employer with a strong commitment to diversity. All qualified applicants will be considered without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability, protected veteran status, or other legally protected category. We strongly encourage the application of individuals from historically underrepresented groups.

Salary and Appointment

This SEPAL Postdoctoral Fellowship position is a full-time, salaried, and benefited position at San Francisco State University. The position is annually renewable, dependent on performance and continued grant funding, which is anticipated. Salary is competitive and commensurate with professional experience and qualifications of the candidates. San Francisco State University offers excellent benefits packages.

Application Procedure

To apply for the SEPAL Postdoctoral Fellowship positions, please submit the following to SEPAL Program Administrator, Trisha DeVera, via email (

  1. 1)  a letter of interest in the position, including your career goals (no more than 2 pages),
  2. 2)  a current curriculum vitae,
  3. 3)  a statement of general research interests (no more than 2 pages and need not relatespecifically to this effort),
  4. 4)  a statement of general teaching philosophy (no more than 2 pages and including adescription of characteristics of inclusive classroom environments), and
  5. 5)  the names of three professional references, including current position, relationshipto the applicant, and phone and email contact information.

Application Review Timeline

Review of applications will begin on Friday, October 20, 2017 and will continue until the position is filled.


Questions about the position should be directed to SEPAL Director, Dr. Kimberly D. Tanner, Professor, Department of Biology, San Francisco State University, ( More information about SEPAL can be found at:

SEPAL: The Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory Department of Biology, San Francisco State University Fall 2017

Scientists in the Streets

Outreach that Charles Lee, a SEPAL alumni spear-headed along with other SEPAL SPIKE alumni.



SF State receives $1 million to increase student diversity in science

By Jamie Oppenheim    Thursday, June 15, 2017


SF State is one of 24 schools participating in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence initiative focused on increasing diversity in the sciences.


Five-year grant aims to improve retention rates in biology among underrepresented minorities

The lack of representation of minority students in the sciences nationwide has been well documented. One-third of all college freshmen who plan to study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are underrepresented minorities, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, but only one-sixth of those students actually graduate with degrees in STEM. San Francisco State University’s Department of Biology hopes to chip away at this long-standing inequity with a five-year, $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the largest private funder of science education.

Out of 500 applicants, SF State was one of 24 other universities chosen to participate in the HHMI Inclusive Excellence initiative, which is designed to engage all students to be successful in science, especially underrepresented minorities and non-traditional students.

SF State data shows that 35 percent of freshman biology majors actually graduate with a degree in biology in six years or less. That percentage is significantly lower for African American, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander and Filipino students. While most universities have high failure rates among students in introductory chemistry and biology courses, SF State has an 80 percent success rate. Given these two points, SF State faculty are targeting biology classes at the junior and senior level as the place where minority students leave the major, according to the HHMI proposal.

SF State Professor of Biology Kimberly Tanner is overseeing the HHMI grant, in strong collaboration with the majority of SF State’s almost 60 biology instructors. Tanner is also the director of the University’s Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory (SEPAL), and this new award builds on prior HHMI funding support for faculty efforts in innovative teaching. Tanner and her biology colleagues Blake Riggs, Laura Burrus and Carmen Domingo have developed a multi-pronged approach to retain underrepresented students in the major by focusing on teaching and coursework.

The main features of the grant are faculty partnerships with underrepresented advanced biology majors to serve as peer mentors in classrooms and to develop culturally relevant curriculum. Students working with faculty will receive credit for their efforts through a four-unit service-learning biology course. Post-doctoral research scholars will work with faculty-student teams and collect data to gauge the effectiveness of the programs.

Biology concepts can seem abstract, Tanner said, but when you learn something in the context of your community, evidence shows the information is more meaningful. For example, in one case study, students examine the death of Cynthia Lucero, a Latina scholar who died running the Boston Marathon. “Why did she die? It’s actually related to water balance in your body,” Tanner said. “Students can learn about osmosis over and over again and they don’t seem to understand it. But when they do the case study, it seems to click because they think, ‘That could be somebody in my family.’”

That’s only one example of putting biology into a culturally relevant context, Tanner added, and the partnership between faculty and students is designed to expand those examples and tease out what’s most meaningful to students. “If we love science and we want to understand complex problems, we have to engage people who think about the world in different ways,” she said.

Another component that could prove to be a real game changer is peer mentoring. Blake Riggs is a huge supporter of near peer-mentoring and said this could transform the culture within science. “Students go to their friends first for help,” Riggs said. “If we can harness that and they can now go to their peer mentor, who is more approachable than a professor, we can keep them on the right track.”









Go SEPAL Students!!

Congratulations to our own SEPAL grad student, Analisa Brown, (front row), Jackson Reeder (back row left, SCI 750 Alumni), and Lan Ma (front left next to Analisa, SCI 750 alumni) who went to the 2017 CSU-wide Research Competition!

Congratulations Nominee!!

Congratulation to Analisa Brown for her nomination as 2017 Graduate Distinguished Achievement Awards in Physiology and Behavior. 

How Do You Know if Your Students Are Engaged?

Check out Shannon Seidel’s work on active learning in the new Division of Natural Sciences newsletter: Synapse. Want more? Click here!

Discover your class!: Dr. Joseph Ross Explains his view on DART


As Owens’ manuscript suggests, this brings opportunity for institution-wide, automated analysis of teaching practices without having to have person-time in the classroom or watching (and coding) course videos. This is a game-changer. Read the manuscript for more potential benefits.

The reason I was so excited about DART this morning is because I pride myself on incorporating active learning in my courses at Fresno State. Plus (the BIG plus), I have years of lecture capture recordings that I could be analyzing RIGHT NOW! So, before getting ready for work this morning, I threw a few of my .mp4 file exports from ExplainEverything at DART.

Thus, a key benefit is those of us with stockpiles of audio can get straight to analysis. Today.

Further, with audio recording devices being dead cheap (ranging from dedicated digital audio recorders to cell phones, laptops, tablets…), everybody can (and should!) start analyzing their teaching style using this technique. Today. Except…

If you would like to read more, click here