Concept-Centered Teaching

Course Info

Course Number/Code: 7.931 (Spring 2006)
Course Title: Concept-Centered Teaching
Course Level: Undergraduate / Graduate
Offered By: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Department: Biology
Course Instructor(s): Dr. Melissa Kosinski-Collins
Course Introduction:
Syllabus Course Description

Do you like teaching, but find yourself frustrated by how little students seem to learn? Would you like to try teaching, but are nervous about whether you will be any good at it? Are you interested in new research on science education? If so, 7.391 is the course for you!

7.391 is a weekly seminar on science education open to both graduate and undergraduate students. Participants will read primary literature on science education, uncover basic concepts often overlooked when teaching biology, and lead a small weekly discussion session for students in 7.014 or 7.02. Students will be encouraged to review lecture material posted on the web for 7.014 or attend review sessions for 7.02 to obtain a first-hand view of the material being covered. Current students will be paired with mentors from last semester's course.

Research in science education shows that the greatest obstacle to student learning is the failure to identify and confront the misconceptions with which the students enter the class or those that they acquire during their studies. This course focuses on developing the participants' ability to uncover and confront student misconceptions and to foster student understanding and retention of key concepts.

Participants are encouraged to remain in the program as mentors for the fall semester.

Course Format

The course will have three components, reading primary literature in science education, discussing key concepts in select areas of biology, and leading a discussion group for the students taking Introductory Biology lab or lecture (7.014 or 7.02).

We will discuss at least one original paper each week. The papers must be read in advance of the class. Our goal will be to critically analyze these papers. To help us achieve that goal, each of you will be expected to email to the instructor two discussion questions for the article covered that day by the morning of the class. In discussing the papers, we will focus on articulating the main points of the paper, identifying conditions under which the data was collected and assumptions used in interpreting the data, and discussing how the results could be applied to the teaching environment at MIT.

Starting in the third week of class, seminar participants will lead a small (no more than 5 students) discussion groups for students enrolled in 7.014 or 7.02. There will be one session of each discussion group a week and each session will last approximately an hour. A mentor from last semester's class will be partnered with you to help facilitate the discussion. Students leading discussions for 7.02 will be required to attend bi-weekly meetings with the 7.02 staff to orient themselves with the material to be presented. Students leading discussions for 7.014 will be asked to attend lecture if possible or review old lecture material.


This is a discussion class, so attendance is mandatory. You are allowed to miss one of the 15 sessions of the class, but please notify the instructors ahead of time. You will also need to arrange to pick up the paper for the next week from the course instructor. If you need to miss a second class, you must talk to the instructors ahead of time so we can arrange an appropriate make-up assignment.


Class participants are required to lead a discussion session with currently enrolled introductory biology students. There are writing assignments based on preparation work for these discussion sessions. Participants will also be required to give several oral presentations on class readings and run a selected concept discussion during a portion of the seminar.


The course is pass/fail. Participation in class discussion, completion of the assignments above, and satisfactory attendance will result in a passing grade.