Sam Donovan

Research Associate Professor

Science Education

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Office: (412) 624-4825
Lab: (412) 624-4825
A358 Langley Hall
4249 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Education

Dr. Donovan received his Ph.D. in 2005 at the University of Wisconsin, and joined the Department in 2008.

Undergraduate biology education is currently undergoing a radical transformation. There is active debate about what constitutes core biological knowledge and which skills should be emphasized to prepare students for future careers and biological literacy. Additionally, many faculty are exploring new teaching strategies that reflect our growing understanding of how people learn. One of the most promising approaches to reforming biology education involves engaging students in research activities.

In the Cyberlearning lab group we explore the ways that technology can be used to support students' engagement in realistic scientific research activities. There are three drivers of our work:

The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is a long standing community of biology education reformers.The BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium is a long standing community of biology education reformers.

E-science - Rich data collections and analysis tools are available online and can be used to support student inquiry. Furthermore, there are interesting citizen science and crowd-sourced research that make it easier to participate in research.

Open Educational Resources - The movement to share resources with fewer copyright restrictions is supporting the growth of a "remix" culture in education. Free access to high quality learning materials is also changing how we organize classroom time.

Networked computing and communications technologies - Changes in information storage and access to online collaboration tools are changing the ways we work, play and learn.

My current work focuses in two broad areas:

Two representations of the same phylogenetic tree demonstrating the importance of focusing on the branching pattern over the order of the branch tips.Two representations of the same phylogenetic tree demonstrating the importance of focusing on the branching pattern over the order of the branch tips.

Tree-thinking - How do students come to understand the use of phylogentic diagrams in representing evolutionary knowledge and solving biological problems?

Using large research datasets - How can biology curricula and classroom instruction be structured to engage students in realistic scientific inquiry?

You can learn more by visiting The Cyberlearning Lab and Sam's Education Projects.

Recent Publications
  • Bauerle, C., A. DePass, D. Lynn, C. O'Conner, S. Singer, M. Whithers, C.W. Anderson, S. Donovan, S. Drew, D. Ebert-May, L. Gross, S.G. Hoskins, J. Labov, D. Lopatto, W. McClatchey, P. Varma-Nelson, N. Palaez, M. Poston, K. Tanner, D. Wessner, H. White, W. Wood, D. Wubah (2011) Vision and change in undergraduate biology education: A call to action (Brewer, C., and D. Smith, eds.) American Association for the Advancement of Science: Washington, DC.

  • Jungck, J., S. Donovan, S. Everse, A. Weisstein, and N. Khirpet (2010) Bioinformatics education dissemination with an evolutionary problem solving perspective. Briefings Bioinf. 11:570-581

  • Donovan, S., and L. Bernardo (2009) The role of collaborative web publishing tools in evidence-based practice. J. Emerg. Nursing 35:149-150

  • Donovan, S. (2009) Concept inventories as resources for improving teaching and learning. Focus Microb. Educ. 15:2-3

  • Donovan, S. (2008) Correspondence - Big data: teaching must evolve to keep up with advances. Nature 455:461

  • Baum, D.A., S.D. Smith, and S.S. Donovan (2005) Evolution. The tree-thinking challenge. Science 310:979-980

  • Stewart, J., C. Passmore, J. Cartier, J. Rudolph, and S. Donovan (2005) Modeling for understanding in science education. Pp 159-184 in Understanding Mathematics and Science Matters (Romberg, T., T. Carpenter, and F. Dremlock, eds.), Erlbaum, Manwah.

  • Donovan, S., and K. Greene (2005) Ramping up to Biology Student Workbench: A multi-stage approach to bioinformatics education. Bioscene 31:3-11

  • Donovan, S. (2005) Teaching the tree of life: Tree thinking and reasoning about change over deep time. Pp 87-90 in Evolutionary science and society: Educating a new generation (Bybee, R., ed.) Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, Colorado Springs, CO

  • Springer, L., M.E. Stanne, and S.S. Donovan (1999) Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: A meta-analysis. Rev Edu Res 69:21-51