Course history

The initiative for this course came from the Dean’s office, Eberly College of Science.   The Dean’s Alumni Advisory Board  recommended in 2009 that the College should be doing more to make non-science majors, many of whom will go on to be the leaders of future in a wide range of occupations, better consumers of science.  There was a strong recognition that science will be an even more important in this century than it was last century, while at the same time, the general level of awareness of how science works – what it can and can not deliver – seems to be getting worse in the population at large.  This feeling is based on qualitative assessment of the standard of public discourse surrounding such controversial topics as stem cells, vaccines, climate change, genetic modification, and evolution.  The recommendation of the Advisory Board was enthusiastically taken up by the then Dean, Dan Larson, and Associate Dean Freed was empowered to make it happen.

The decision was made to offer a 3-credit course on the scientific process to non-majors.  Dean Freed subsequently held several consultation meetings with College Faculty which attracted a wide range of ideas.  Subsequently, the post of Course Director was advertised within the College, and on the basis of the vision he proposed, Andrew Read was appointed summer 2009.  Several further meetings with Dean Larson and Associate Deans Freed and Williams further shaped the framework for the course.  From there, it has been left to Dr Read to make it happen in practice.

Fall 2010 was the inaugural voyage. Forty students appeared on day 1.  Andrew shamelessly marketed the course to them (bring your friends) and about 70 students did the course, with just over 60 finishing (passing).  Broadly speaking, the students, the Dean, the Advisory Board, Norm Freed and even Andrew Read all liked what happened.
Fall 2011 built on that experience, sticking with what worked and trying some new stuff…. Class room size sets the class size.  We had room for 100 students. The course ‘sold out’ in March. 99 students finished; 98 passed. How did it go? Check out the December 2011 entries on the instructor blog.
Fall 2012, we went to 178 students. The course scaled up ok, though so did the discipline problems. By Fall 2015, we were at 350 students. Fall, 2016 it is at 363…
Page last updated: Aug 30, 2016