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Effective teachers of systems biology must master a new approach to teaching that is different from the way biology is traditionally taught. Mechanisms through which these new approaches are developed and disseminated include the following:
Faculty Learning Communities: The HHMI Program at VCU offers Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) focused on the concept of teaching biology from a systems approach at the undergraduate level. FLCs are small groups of faculty, postdoctoral trainees, and graduate students that meet regularly with a trained facilitator for periods of several months to a year or more to solve problems relevant to a common goal. Guest presenters provide specific expertise and share their experience. The FLC may visit external sites with similar goals. The group shares insights and new knowledge with the rest of the university community in publications and––as in the case of our FLC focused on the concept of “Teaching Systems Biology”––provides a foundation for FLCs in succeeding years.
Preparing Future Faculty In the Professions Program (PFFP): VCU's HHMI Program will offer a program under the PFFP. VCU’s School of Graduate Studies, in conjunction with the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), sponsors a series of short courses and professional development opportunities, the PFFP program, which introduces participants to the responsibilities of higher education, addresses teaching and learning issues in the college classroom, and provides supervised internship opportunities. The PFFP program prepares participants for academic positions and includes specialty seminars that focus on pedagogy in specific professional areas. Guest speakers with expertise in the area of systems biology and related instructional issues will participate in the PFFP program as well as Teaching Systems Biology FLC. Seminars will be open to all interested faculty, while graduate students, postdocs, and faculty participating in the FLC participate concurrently.