Association for Biology Laboratory Education: A V&C Resource

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Title of Abstract: Association for Biology Laboratory Education: A V&C Resource

Name of Author: Lawrence Blumer
Author Company or Institution: Morehouse College
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Biological Sciences Courses
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum, Faculty Development
Approaches: Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Laboratory Education, Material Development, Mixed Approach
Keywords: faculty development laboratory education inquiry-based workshop conference teaching resources

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE) was founded in 1979 to promote information exchange among university and college educators actively concerned with teaching biology in a laboratory setting. The focus of ABLE is to improve the undergraduate biology laboratory experience by promoting the development and dissemination of interesting, innovative, and reliable laboratory exercises. The intended outcome of ABLE activities is for students to learn science by doing science. This is identical to the recommendation in the Vision and Change report.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: ABLE fosters change by holding an annual 3-day workshop-based conference at which faculty present peer-reviewed hands-on innovations in biology laboratory instruction. Participants in these workshops leave knowing how to implement new laboratory activities because they are the students in each workshop and they are provided with all the materials needed to successfully implement the new activity at their home institution. ABLE also maintains an on-line archive of the laboratory activities at presented at our past workshop conferences as a permanent resource for faculty seeking materials and techniques for effective laboratory instruction. Workshops emulating best practices as recommended in the V&C Report and activities on transforming instructor-centered instruction to student-centered inquiry-based instruction are common at our meetings.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Proposals to present major workshops, mini-workshops and posters undergo peer review prior to acceptance. Participants at the annual ABLE conference perform anonymous peer reviews of all presentations. These conference peer reviews are returned to both the presenters and to the ABLE editorial committee. When the presenter of a workshop or poster submits their final draft manuscript, the editorial committee reviews it to determine whether the peer review comments were addressed. All submissions are reviewed and edited prior to publication in our on-line proceedings, Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching, Proceedings of the Workshop/Conference of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education (

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Each year, approximately 200 participants and presenters attend an ABLE conference. Participants are faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students from colleges and universities in across the US and Canada, and other countries. Typically, one-third of the participants at an annual conference will be new to ABLE. Presently, ABLE has more than 450 members. The content of the ABLE Proceedings, new laboratory activities with student handout, notes to instructors, sample results and instructional graphics, are available for downloading from the ABLE website, one year after presentation at the conference. The most current 2-years of content is restricted to ABLE members, but all content older than 2-years is open-source in a searchable database.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Informing the higher education community about the opportunities to present new laboratory pedagogy at ABLE conferences, and about the laboratory education resources archived on the ABLE website is a constant challenge. We have attempted to address these challenges by making presentations at both education and discipline focused conferences, distributing postcards with the ABLE website address at conferences, and creating reciprocal agreements with other scientific organizations to publicize our conferences.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: ABLE disseminates the content of major workshops, mini-workshops and posters at its annual workshop conference and in our on-line proceedings, Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching, Proceedings of the Workshop/Conference of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education ( One day regional ABLE workshop conferences also are presented periodically. All these activities will continue in the future. The 2014 ABLE conference will be hosted by the University of Oregon, June 17-20, and the 2015 ABLE conference will be hosted by Boston University, June 23-26.

Acknowledgements: Unlike most organizations, ABLE has no permanent staff, so we depend on our members to pitch-in and provide the leadership and hard work that makes ABLE possible. I thank the members of the ABLE Board of Directors and all our members.