Author Sheila Tobias Talks about Teaching Science at WPI

Contact: Arlie Corday, WPI Media & Community Relations

WORCESTER, Mass. - Writer and consultant Sheila Tobias is a well-known expert in science and math education. The author of several books including "Overcoming Math Anxiety" and "They're Not Dumb, They're Different," will present three talks at Worcester Polytechnic Institute this month.

On Thursday, June 29, at 9 a.m., she will offer "What Do Our Exams Tell Our Students about Themselves? About Science?" in WPI's Higgins House Library.

Tobias and her colleague Jacqueline Raphael have compiled data on college science instructors' efforts to enlarge and alter in-class examinations. The goal was to demonstrate that while faculty may not test what they value, students come to value what they test. An image of science emerges from traditionally constructed tests that is a disservice to both science majors and general students. Finding that examinations drive student behavior, the authors say efforts to modify curriculum, without equal attention to testing and grading practices, is inadequate.

On Thursday, June 29, at 2 p.m., Tobias will speak on the topic "The 'Problem' of Women in Science: Why Is It So Hard to Convince People There is One?" in WPI's Gordon Library Seminar Room

While many women scientists succeed in what is still a male-dominated environment, many do not. The National Science Foundation tracked 2,000 male and 2,000 female students and found that the gender gap widens progressively through high school, college and graduate school. Tobias says the data can be interpreted in two ways: Either women don't have the staying power or innate ability to stick with science, or science does not know how to appeal to and nurture women's talent. Tobias makes the case that women will greatly benefit when science teaching is improved and when the route to professional science is more humane.

On Friday, June 30, at 10:30 a.m. in Higgins Laboratories, room 116, Tobias will present "Math Anxiety: An Update," part of WPI's weeklong Mathematics in Industry Workshop for High-School Teachers.

All three seminars are free of charge. For more information, contact Judith E. Miller, director of educational development, at 508-831-5579 or e-mail jmiller@wpi.edu. For more on Tobias, see her Web site at http://www.sheilatobias.com/index.html.

Founded in 1865, WPI enrolls 2,700 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students in science, engineering, management, humanities and arts, and social sciences. Under the WPI Plan, undergraduates complete three projects focusing on their major course of study, the humanities, and the interactions among science, technology and society.