GCC Professor Accepted into Biology Scholars Program

Seeks to Improve Undergraduate Biology Education

Dr. Karen Huffman-Kelly , GCC Assistant Professor of Biology will spend the next academic year participating in an Assessment Residency through the American Society for Microbiology’s (ASM) Biology Scholars program. The yearlong residency is followed by four more years of online collaboration designing courses and assessments that maximize student learning. Dr. Huffman-Kelly has already begun working with others selected for the cohort through a wiki space. They will meet in person next month at the Measuring Student Learning Institute to be held June 17-20, 2015 in Washington, DC.

The Assessment Residency includes several key training components: two face-to-face meetings, online “homework” assignments and specialized peer mentoring. Dr. Huffman-Kelly is one of 20 scholars chosen from around the country. Besides Dr. Huffman-Kelly, two others are from New York—one from Suffolk Community College whom she has not yet met; the other from St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn with whom she has worked with through the Science Teachers Association of New York State (STANYS).

“I am involved with science education in NYS and am committed to doing what I can to improve science education statewide and nationally, but especially in my own classroom,” Dr.Huffman-Kelly said. “The main reasons for participating in the ASM program is for professional growth, exploring ways to improve student learning and understanding of science, helping students understand how to apply what we learn in the classroom to their career and lives, and understanding how to best use assessment information to improve teaching and learning.”

Dr. Huffman-Kelly came to GCC in January 2011, bringing energy and experience to the College. She previously taught at Buffalo State and Erie Community College. At GCC, she and Biology Professor Marirose Ethington received a three-year National Science Foundation grant to research the effects of literacy instruction in biology courses. “I now know from the data analysis that overall there are techniques that I am using that are effective, but [due to limitations of the assessment] I can’t be sure which are most effective, or which ones to tweak, especially for individuals.”

The Assessment Residency will help her further hone in on which teaching and assessment techniques are working most effectively. “Over the next few months assessments and assessment techniques will be developed for Fundamentals of Cell Biology (BIO 104), and in the fall I will begin using them,” she said. “Each Scholar is expected to present any findings and development of material at the annual ASM meeting in May 2016. The Scholars program will help me develop and use formative and summative assessment more effectively and immediately to drive my teaching and individual student learning. Just as importantly, the contacts, and networking with others who are also interested in best practices in assessment will be invaluable.”

In the Program, individual scholars meet like-minded colleagues, making critical connections and forming numerous peer groups, collaborations and communities. This helps each scholar as they work to understand, practice and gain comfort and confidence in teaching based on evidence of student learning. Past scholars cite networking with like-minded faculty and connections to new opportunities as the most beneficial outcomes of the Program.

The Assessment Residency has several goals:

  • Develop measurable learning outcomes for courses or course modules grounded in research on teaching and learning
  • Implement, integrate and align assessment strategies with course learning outcomes
  • Explore opportunities to develop a research study analyzing student learning
  • Create a community of practitioners to sustain improvements in teaching and learning

Biologists accepted into the Assessment Residency demonstrate the use of varied teaching strategies in their classrooms and laboratories and are motivated to design courses and assessments to maximize student learning. The ASM looks for applicants who are asking questions about the purpose of their courses AND the effectiveness of their course assessments.

Dr. Huffman-Kelly teaches Fundamentals of Cell Biology, Biotechnology, Microbiology and Human Disease, and Genetics. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Microbiology from Indiana University and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin. Karen is a third degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. She is a co-advisor of the Outdoor Adventure Club at GCC. She and her husband Martin live in Amherst, NY with their children Sylvia and Gabriel.

For more information, contact Marketing Communications Associate Director Donna Rae Sutherland at (585) 343-0055 ext. 6616, or via email: dsutherland@genesee.edu.