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  1. Claudia Ludwig
  2. http://see.systemsbiology.net
  3. Director, Systems Education Experiences
  5. Institute for Systems Biology
  1. Nitin Baliga
  2. Senior Vice President and Director
  4. Institute for Systems Biology

Systems Education Experience

NSF Awards: 1518261, 1565166, 1646709

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12

Systems Education Experiences (SEE) is an education and outreach program that was established in 2003 by the Baliga Lab at Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. The mission of the SEE program is to bring leading-edge, interdisciplinary STEM concepts and scientific practice to high school classrooms across the world. The SEE program uses a research-based approach and internship programs to sustain collaborations among students, teachers, and scientists for the purpose of developing curricula for understanding complex phenomena to solve real world problems.  Curricula developed by SEE are aligned with current education standards, and are optimized for high school classrooms, especially those that serve underrepresented groups in STEM.  Each curriculum module contains iteratively optimized lessons plans, evaluation instruments, powerpoint presentations, kits for hands-on experimentation, and free online software and resources. By hosting in-person and web-based programs to train teachers in effective dissemination through formal and informal settings, SEE has had worldwide impact on >1,700 teachers and an estimated 2,000,000 students. Evaluations and personal accounts demonstrate that SEE participants are able to critically assess complex problems at a systems level, so they can formulate and test hypotheses using authentic technologies and computation. The excitement and motivation generated by SEE can be attributed to their emphasis on providing real world context for abstract concepts and practices. This program has been replicated by other scientific organizations demonstrating that SEE can be scaled up so larger numbers of scientists can participate in providing real world STEM experiences to significantly larger numbers of students, teachers, and citizens.

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Discussion from the 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase (11 posts)
  • Icon for: Claudia Ludwig

    Claudia Ludwig

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Systems Education Experiences
    May 14, 2017 | 10:41 p.m.

    Thank you for your interest in our education program!  We are happy to be a part of this showcase and welcome your comments and feedback.  We hope especially to receive suggestions for new resources that can help us better measure our impact.  As mentioned in our text description, we have used pre- and post-assessments and evaluations along with personal accounts to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness.  We have also tracked participants as they move through their careers and have tracked curriculum dissemination and web analytics throughout the world.  As we begin this 14th year of our program, we are especially interested in two things.  1)  We are looking for new resources and research partners who can help measure the impact our STEM curriculum has on student engagement, growth, and learning in various contexts.  We have a great deal of anecdotal and self-report data but are interested in advancing the assessment of STEM learning.  2)  We are interested in formally measuring the effectiveness of transferring our program model into new settings.  We have mentored numerous scientists and outreach program providers as they implement our model or program components in their institute.  Any input and pertinent resources you can share to help with these efforts are highly appreciated.

  • Icon for: Lynn Goldsmith

    Lynn Goldsmith

    Distinguished scholar
    May 16, 2017 | 09:39 a.m.

    Thanks, Claudia, for sharing an overview of your program. You indicate in your comment that, moving forward, you're particularly interested in focusing on gathering evidence of the impact of the program. I'd like to back up a bit and ask you to put a little more "flesh" on the program model itself--it would be great to hear a little more about the individual components of the program and how they relate to each other, and what kinds of experiences participants have within each of those components. Given the longevity of your program, I expect that it's developed over the years and that you've learned a lot about how to create a program that has  "legs." Could you share some of your lessons learned?

    Thanks! Looking forward to hearing more!

  • Icon for: Claudia Ludwig

    Claudia Ludwig

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Systems Education Experiences
    May 16, 2017 | 02:25 p.m.

    Thanks, Lynn!  I am going to answer your question in two parts.  First, I’ll describe the program components as you’ve asked.  Second, I’ll answer the question on lessons learned, because there have been so many.  We spend a great deal of our time talking with others about lessons learned and are currently working on a paper to discuss some of the novel lessons.


    We have four main components to our program - all components build off of each other to directly train participants and produce curriculum and resources to indirectly train and educate others. 

    This 4-part, iterative program begins with an interdisciplinary summer internship.  Teachers and students (high school through graduate) work with STEM professionals during the summer to learn how systems science is applied to better understand and solve today’s complex problems.  Each intern participates in a research project, interviews other STEM professionals, and shares what they learned in multiple ways.  The interdisciplinary team of students, teachers, and scientists also collaboratively identify engaging, real-world complex problems that provide context for transferring this learning into classrooms so that others can also participate in authentic science while building important skills.   The team also assesses what is currently available for schools and begins to build needed curriculum, frameworks, and technology based on what they learned in the lab. All curricula are aimed at helping students develop the thinking and concepts required for using systems science to solve complex problems. This is possible in traditional non-integrated courses by presenting a problem or phenomenon that inherently brings together biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, statistics, and computer science.  We use an enhanced Dick and Carey instructional design model to optimize classroom and laboratory activities and package them into curriculum modules. Instructional goals for each module are aligned with published learning standards and best practices.

    The second program component includes Classroom Pilots.  During the academic year, these curricular ideas and frameworks are field tested in classrooms (generally in 8-12th grades).  Performance objectives and instructional strategies are calibrated to entry behaviors and skills of participants. Criterion-referenced assessment instruments evaluate the effectiveness of curriculum and participant learning.

    During the third component (Curriculum Optimization), that pilot data comes back to the team, with new members.  Together, this 2nd year interdisciplinary summer team further develops and optimizes the curriculum module while connecting more completely to best education practices, standards, and the systems level work being completed in the lab.  Field testing, modification, and optimization occur over three years. If hands-on cultures and lab materials are needed to enable easy classroom implementation, then a kit of materials is designed and made available.  During this phase, the module may also be adapted for other settings and contexts, including technical education centers, project-based learning programs, community colleges, science centers, distance learning, independent student projects, etc. 

    During the fourth component (Dissemination and Support), all curricular materials, online tools, and teaching aides are placed on our website for broad dissemination. The curriculum generally focuses on the new systems process of interdisciplinary science. Because this is often a paradigm shift for educators, the Systems Education Experiences team attends and hosts professional development institutes to train teachers to bring this curriculum and these hands-on STEM experiences to their students.  New ideas come from teachers at those institutes and the cycle begins again!

    Please see this page for more on our program model:  https://see.systemsbiology.net/about/.  On this page, you will also find the image we shared for a few seconds in the video to highlight the program components.  The image also demonstrates a timeline so you can better understand when the program components are active (i.e. our internships happen every summer, classroom pilots happen during the academic year, curriculum development and optimization happen year round, and dissemination and support happen year round). 

    I am happy to clarify more if needed!


  • Icon for: Claudia Ludwig

    Claudia Ludwig

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Systems Education Experiences
    May 16, 2017 | 05:32 p.m.

    Here is the second part of our answer:

    Lessons Learned

    1.      Our program works best when educators are fully integrated with the personnel of the scientific research group. A culture that views each member of the team as an integral part and as an expert in their content area, whether it be genomics or instruction, is key to partnership success. 

    2.      The program is most effective when key educators and scientific personnel who were identified to be passionately committed to bettering science education were retained from one year to the next. Even if they can only participate for a few weeks each summer.

    3.      High school interns should be integral to the curriculum development program. To engage students from disadvantaged backgrounds, it is critical that the interns are paid at a competitive rate.  Partnerships with community organizations are also critical to gain access to the disadvantaged student community and to better integrate cultural best practices.  Direct one-on-one interviews are necessary to identify potential candidates since the ability to complete professional applications biases the process towards students with ample support and prior experience.  The choice of juniors for the internship program is also important as it gives sufficient time to work with students to remedy their basic understanding of scientific concepts and help with their college application process.  Furthermore, this helps disseminate information regarding the program as the students take their experience back to their local community.  Finally, requiring the students to record their progress on a website gives the students a structured environment to organize their thoughts, a channel to express themselves creatively by showcasing their work, and, importantly, a mechanism to attract future participation by other students, educators, and funding agencies.   

    4.      Efficient coordination of activities among diverse personnel is critical for the success of this program. A program coordinator is most effective when she or he is completely integrated into the scientific research group. Having a designated coordinator also enables meaningful participation by scientists because it ensures all program components run smoothly and are beneficial for all groups of participants.

    5.      It is beneficial to disseminate the curriculum and materials first locally and then nationally after 1-2 rounds of field testing.

    6.      Working with entire school districts during field testing leads to more successful implementation of curricula.

    7.      Materials such as microbial cultures, growth media, and sterile supplies, need to be provided in a way that greatly minimizes setup time and increases the likelihood of a successful laboratory experiment.  While this may sound like the simplest part of the program, it is an enormous challenge to find funding and space to prepare high-quality materials for teachers in a cost-effective way.  Finding innovative ways of using common classroom equipment and/or materials that can be found at local or online stores works better than trying to loan or ship expensive equipment to schools.

    8.      Web-based materials in a friendly format enable rapid dissemination, broad reach, and frequent updates to match content to current scientific knowledge.  Through this format, our iterative cycle of curriculum development has considerably cut the time required for transferring current knowledge from the laboratory to the classroom.  While the complete cycle takes 2-3 years, updates are instantaneously made online.  Having students and a software designer aid in this process is very beneficial.

    9.      Dissemination of curricula in a cost-effective manner is a significant challenge. This program has been primarily funded through the broader impacts components of scientific grants.  This funding mechanism works well when developing new curriculum and direct training programs.  However, finding programs that support routine and sustained dissemination of education materials in a cost-effective framework has been a challenge.

    10.  Having scientists participate at a high level in broader impacts such as this is important for many reasons.  One reason that is sometimes overlooked is that it allows them to slowly become involved with policy making.  Scientists can become involved with education-related policy making only when they have deep understanding of the intricacies of curriculum development models, teaching instruments, student learning, teacher-student dynamics in the classroom, etc.  Scientists are not trained in any of these areas and to expect their participation in policy making is unrealistic.  By involving students at all levels (high school, undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate) in this type of curriculum development process, it is possible to iteratively improve their understanding of all of these complex interdependencies in a manner that will eventually help them influence education policies.  Furthermore, by effectively integrating the grass roots efforts to bring novel concepts to the classroom, this extended team can serve as a network to collaboratively support systemic change.  Increasing communication across these groups further connects new and experienced scientists with educators, and opens doors that connect to policy and policy making.

  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    Sr. Director, Research and Innovation
    May 16, 2017 | 09:45 p.m.


    First, thank you for providing such thorough answers to these initial questions! You indeed have a rich base of information to draw from, and  from the "lessons learned" effort you are heuristically building a foundation of data to mine.


    I know there are other projects hosted herein, one called the research + practice "collaboratory" that in part seeks to achieve what you desire as well, which is melding valid research on impact with practice and input from teachers, working systemically across a particular area of need within a district! Maybe connect with them as a like-minded colleague! (see: http://stemforall2017.videohall.com/presentatio...).


    I empathize with the notion of scale and sustainability, especially for programs as rich as your with many "hands-on" experiences with science materials/consumables. There indeed is an effort to capture the "wisdom of practice" of teachers, empowering them to be leaders and share their voice in how policy and funding may be best implemented to sustain worthwhile efforts. The National Academies for Science, Engineering and Medicine hosted a panel at NSTA in LA on this very topic with Jay Labov, Sr. Advisor for Educatinon and Communication--which may be something to follow-tap into for your efforts. See: http://learningcenter.nsta.org/search/?action=b...


    I find the design, development, implementation, and evaluation process (ADDIE) with Dick/Carey a main stay of ISD for producing high quality materials..and you are tapping teachers and students in their iterative production cycle-great stuff. I know there are also other tools out there, such as a rubric developed by Achieve that helps developers determine how well their materials support the three-dimensional learning espoused in the the K12 Framework for Science Education and the NGSS, which may aid in your development efforts (apologies if you are already using this!). See: https://www.nextgenscience.org/resources/equip-....


    I know that the NGSS do espouse teachers presenting locally relevant/authentic phenomena, that inspire inquisitive students to ask their own driving questions, which in turn guide them to design and conduct investigations (or design solutions) to answer those questions (or solve problems), which in turn generate data, which then is used as evidence to support their arguments, explanations and models. This process should be part of everyday science classroom learning! Labs should not be a separate end of unit "lab" that students do following a cook-book lock-step procedure serving to verify/confirm a particular "correct answer" the teacher previously lectured about! Your student in the video talked exactly about this in the video--Outstanding!



    I think the video says your content is NGSS-aligned. Might you provide a little (brief) insight into how you see this? Which of the eight science and engineering practices are you leveraging, and how do you see your modules facilitating the deeper and more flexible understanding of the disciplinary core ideas of science as students engage in the practices, while recognizing cross-cutting concepts? I seem to see you have a rich narrative storyline related to the complex systems problems you present, and suspect your modules have teachers facilitating rich discourse between students as they make sense of these complex phenomena!


    NOTE: I quickly looked at the modeling sustainable food systems module as this is an area of high interest to many now! Thank you for sharing the URL...

  • Icon for: Claudia Ludwig

    Claudia Ludwig

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Systems Education Experiences
    May 17, 2017 | 08:22 p.m.

    Thank you, Albert, for the comments, resources, and links!  We do use the Achieve rubric which indeed is a terrific resource.  Also, I was at NSTA in LA but could not attend the panel due to a scheduling conflict.  Thanks very much for the link.  I will tap into those resources as well.


    Your questions are terrific and important and I will try to answer as concisely as possible.  We are aligned with NGSS and also were part of the NGSS review/editing process (specifically with the systems and models components which are particularly important to our work).  As far as insight on how we are aligned, I’d say that our curriculum provides opportunities for three-dimensional learning.  Several of our modules address each and every SEP and CCC through a several DCIs.  While the students will of course not have mastered any one of these practices, concepts or DCIs after one or even two of our modules, they would have gained experience and deepened their understanding of how we systematically move towards 1) better understanding our world and/or 2) solving problems through the interdisciplinary process of science. 


    If I had to pick just a few SEPs that we leverage most often, or most deeply, it would be different for each of our 7 modules.  However, generally I’d say Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying out Investigations, and Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking are certainly leveraged in unique ways.  I see these modules facilitating the deeper and more flexible understanding you mentioned by scaffolding learning in a way that guides students (and teachers) as they actually work through authentic problems and scenarios.  Our modules provide students with hands-on activities that allow them to tap into relevant content and ideas across disciplines while they use the thinking and practices required for modern science.  We’re in the process of updating our website to reflect NGSS and 3D Learning in particular, but it’s not all live yet. Thanks again and I’m very happy you’ve reached out.  Your feedback and insight are greatly appreciated!

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Albert Byers
  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    Sr. Director, Research and Innovation
    May 17, 2017 | 08:54 p.m.

    Wow Claudia...I'm even more impressed, thank you for sharing your thoughts in response to the questions I posed. Onward and upward

  • Icon for: Anne Gold

    Anne Gold

    Research Faculty
    May 17, 2017 | 10:14 p.m.

    What an inspiring project. It is impressive to see a program featured that has been running for 14 years. It is fantastic that you were able to track your students. We have found it very difficult to stay in touch with students who change email addresses, physical addresses or maybe don't even use email. How have you been able to stay in touch and do you have IRB approval for ongoing surveys? 

    My other question is about the funding through Broader Impact model. Do you have returning scientists continue to include your program in the BI component of their work? Is there an institutional recommendation for scientists to work with you for their BI needs or have you built such a strong reputation that scientists continue to work with you? Fascinating and amazing work. 


  • Icon for: Claudia Ludwig

    Claudia Ludwig

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Systems Education Experiences
    May 18, 2017 | 02:40 p.m.

    Thank you!  Great questions - both address things we've struggled with.  


    For tracking students:  They were difficult to track at the beginning, but now, we have found that students generally maintain the same email addresses, which makes it easier.  Although lately, we've noticed that young people do not use email as much, so we try to adapt to their mode of communication.  As part of our program, we share with them the importance of building a positive, professional web presence, so we have them create a webpage and encourage them to set up a LinkedIn account.  This helps keep track of them also. The other thing that has been helpful is that interns generally become close to at least one of their mentors.  This person then remains the point-of-contact.  Also, we touch base with them periodically for updates to keep that communication chain open.  We remind them to use us as job references, scholarship application writers, etc.  We only recently began an IRB approved study.  Prior to that the bulk of our correspondence and surveys were more informal and worked towards improving programming and providing continued support to participants.  This was not ideal, because we lost out on a lot of data and the connected possibility of certain types of publication.  I wish we had set up an IRB-approved study in 2003!  I encourage anyone working with interns to set one up sooner rather than later.  We didn't imagine then what our program would become today.      


    For funding through BI - Returning scientists do continue to include our program in the BI components.  They are not required to by our institution, but we do have a good reputation.  Also, I help them write that component which makes it easy on them and generally results in high panel scores, which is a win-win for all.  


    Thanks again!

  • Icon for: meerz meerz

    meerz meerz

    Undergraduate Student
    May 18, 2017 | 03:14 a.m.

    I really like this project, thanks for sharing!

  • Icon for: Claudia Ludwig

    Claudia Ludwig

    Lead Presenter
    Director, Systems Education Experiences
    May 18, 2017 | 02:41 p.m.


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