David Lopatto, the Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal professor of natural science and mathematics, professor of psychology, and inaugural director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, will receive the 2016 Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education.
The American Society for Cell Biology selected Lopatto for the award for his leadership in assessing the benefits of undergraduate research experiences. The award is named after former ASCB president Bruce Alberts.
“It is significant that professional scientific organizations are recognizing work in science education,” Lopatto says. “Understanding the student experience and the best practices for science learning are essential for inspiring the next generation of scientists and science teachers.”
Central to Lopatto’s research and national impact have been several survey instruments that capture student self-reported feedback and enable analysis of the impact of experiences on student self-perceived gains in knowledge, skills, and confidence in research.
The Survey of Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE) was developed by Lopatto in 2004 and was the first instrument available to faculty and program directors for assessing the impact of research programs. It was quickly adopted by faculty for use in diverse applications.
Since the introduction of the SURE (now in its third iteration), Lopatto has directed the development of related instruments, including measures of perceived student impacts of classroom-based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) research; interdisciplinary STEM curricula; and research in non-STEM areas. These assessment tools are now used by over 150 institutions with more than 10,000 students annually.
Possibly the most significant impact of Lopatto’s work has been in establishing standardized faculty practice for assessment, which has laid the groundwork for development of new approaches and tools for student outcomes assessment.
Progress in the past decade has advanced assessment practice in STEM communities, and the conversation has expanded to include education researchers, cognitive scientists, and evaluation scholars, all of whom now inform practical understanding of student learning in STEM. These interactions not only advance assessment practice but also have led to new scholarship including discipline-based education research.
As noted by one of Lopatto’s nominators, Cynthia Bauerle at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, “These developments continue to motivate improvements in faculty practice initiated originally by the efforts of early researchers like Dr. Lopatto, who recognized the importance of assessment practice as a driver for improved teaching, for achieving a more ‘scientific teaching.’“
Lopatto will accept the award on Dec. 4 at the ASCB annual meeting in San Francisco.