What we do

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Mission Statement:

The Center for Scientific Teaching at Yale leads a national effort to transform undergraduate science teaching at colleges and universities across the United States. We employ the evidence-based method of 'scientific teaching' and its cornerstones -- active learning, diversity, and assessment -- in programs to train faculty, instructors, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students in teaching and mentoring. We reinforce this effort with evaluation and research designed to advance the theory and practice of scientific teaching. By promoting better teaching, our aim is to inspire a larger, more diverse population of college students to pursue majors and careers in science.


What is scientific teaching?

Scientific teaching brings the rigor, creativity, critical thinking, and spirit of scientific research into the classroom. Incorporating current understanding about how people learn, the scientific teaching approach includes active learning, diversity, and assessment.

  1. Active learning is a student-centered teaching approach in which students are engaged in their own learning and take responsibility for it. In active classrooms, students do something rather than passively listening to an instructor. Methods that promote active learning include group learning, problem-solving, and wireless polling during lectures.
  2. Diversity enhances learning, and each student experiences the classroom differently from everyone else. Recognizing student differences and our reactions as teachers to these differences is a crucial element of effective teaching. Incorporating human diversity into science education helps to prepare students more effectively for the global community, enables us to reach more students, and enhances the vibrancy and quality of research and teaching on college and university campuses.
  3. Assessment is a tool for understanding what students are learning. Both students and instructors benefit from regular, ongoing assessment because it provides feedback and drives student learning.

We have a variety of publications on scientific teaching:

Our seminal article, J. Handelsman, et al., 2004. Scientific Teaching. Science 304:521-522.

Our book dedicated to this model, J. Handelsman, S. Miller, C. Pfund, Scientific Teaching (Freeman, New York, NY 2007).

More on our publications page.


Why scientific teaching?

The prevailing traditional approach to science education (content-centered lecture courses, fact-filled exams, introductory courses designed to "weed out" students, infrequent exposure to the actual practice of science) is not helping students or our society. Evidence for this claim:

  • Widespread scientific illiteracy
  • Inability of science students to engage in conceptual & analytical thinking
  • Poor content retention (10-20% of lecture content remembered)
  • Exit of students from college science (>60%)
  • Greater loss of some underrepresented minorities
  • Long-term lack of persistence of women in academic science


Yet science and technology are a critical part of the national and global context:

  • Fastest growing sector of U.S. economy
  • Required for success in many U.S. jobs and careers
  • Essential for individual and collective decisions