Louise Mead

Department of Integrative Biology at Michigan State University, USA

Education Director for the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action

Dr. Louise Mead is faculty member in the Department of Integrative Biology and serves as the Graduate Program Director for the department and Education Director for the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.  Trained as an evolutionary biologist she has a broad range of teaching, research, and administrative experience. Louise started her career as a high school science teacher, obtaining a M.Ed from the University of Massachusetts and then earned a PhD in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology also from the University of Massachusetts. After spending four years as the Education Project Director for the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), she joined the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action at Michigan State University.  As Education Director at BEACON for the past ten years, she manages a wide variety of projects focused on interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate training in the STEM disciplines and teaches courses for the Department of Integrative Biology that integrate experiential and active learning.

“Using cases and Avida-ED to Improve Student Understanding of Evolution: Anecdotes and Evidence”

Improving undergraduate student understanding of evolutionary processes can be daunting.  Students often enter your class with various alternative explanations, as well as misconceptions. A great deal of research has been done (and published) on how best to teach this topic, many studies providing helpful, if not instructive, information.  Over the past six years I have been developing evolutionary case studies, in connection with Avida-ED, a digital evolution software program, to help non-biology STEM majors construct their understanding of evolutionary mechanisms.  We have formally studied student understanding, and allowed students to self-reports what components of the course were most informative to understanding evolutionary processes. In this talk I will share our research as well as the approach I use and what I’ve learned from my students.