The new educational framework aims to make short STEM training effective, inclusive and scalable

An interdisciplinary and international team came together at CSHL’s Banbury Center to tackle the challenges of short STEM training programmes. The meeting was titled “Making career-spanning learning in the life sciences inclusive and effective for all.” Credit: Banbury Centre/CSHL

To succeed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), you need to stay up to date with the latest tools and techniques. The AI ​​boom, for example, has integrated coding and data management skills. But going back to school isn’t an option for most scientists.

Short training programs such as webinars and boot camps have become a popular alternative among busy STEM professionals. However, these formats can have significant flaws. There is often no guarantee that participants will leave with the skills needed to advance their careers. And they can be exclusionary, preventing learners of all abilities and circumstances from benefiting equally.

“We all had horrible teachers,” recalls Jason Williams. Williams is the deputy director of diversity and research readiness at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) DNA Learning Center. “There have been efforts to improve undergraduate science education for decades. But there are virtually no efforts to improve education once you graduate. It’s just assumed that you will be able to, d ‘one way or another, keep up with the times.’

CSHL deploys STEM “bicycle principles”

The “Principles of Cycling,” shown here, consist of two sets of cyclical and linked guidelines. Credit: Banbury Centre/CSHL

To address this problem, Williams and colleagues created a new educational framework called “Bicycle Principles.” It aims to make short STEM training effective, inclusive and scalable. The principles emerged from a meeting at CSHL’s Banbury Center think tank. Williams and co-organizer Rochelle Tractenberg recruited the world’s leading education experts into the short format. They identified the biggest problems in the field and ways to solve them.

The group proposed two sets of principles linked like bicycle wheels. One of the wheels, the Core Principles, focuses on effectiveness and inclusiveness. Recommendations here include setting clear goals that participants of all abilities can achieve. The other wheel, community principles, revolves around reach, accessibility and sustainability. He recommends making training adaptable to different institutions, particularly those that do not have the resources of large universities.

Williams says the Banbury meeting and the guidelines it inspired are the first of their kind. He hopes they won’t be the last.

“If we can raise awareness, we can start to do something,” Williams says. “Our goal was to plant the first flag to say, ‘Here are the biggest problems scientists face in professional development.’ And here are some potential solutions.”

Such improvements could help researchers achieve their career goals and increase the impact of their work – goals familiar to Williams and CSHL. The institution supports a number of scientific careers through its educational initiatives. These start in primary school via the DNA Learning Center. And they continue throughout a scientist’s career, with the CSHL’s program of meetings and courses.

After all, learning is a journey. The principles of cycling can make the trip more successful for everyone.

The work is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

More information:
Jason J. Williams et al, An international consensus on effective, inclusive, career-spanning short training in the life sciences and beyond, PLOS ONE (2023). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0293879

Provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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