Elly Vandegrift, senior instructor of biology and associate director of the Science Literacy Program, is recognized for her constant and astonishing dedication to education in the Department of Biology and the science literacy program. In the words of department head Bruce Bowerman, “Eleanor is bringing us together to explicitly and deliberately focus on how we can systematically improve both our curriculum and our approaches to teaching.”
Vandegrift has been the driving force behind the implementation of the Science Literacy Program since the beginning, focusing her contribution in assisting participating faculty members in developing innovative teaching strategies. Her multifaceted executive and teaching activities have been essential in proving the effectiveness of learner-centered teaching methods, such as backward designed courses, or “flipped” classes. These innovative approaches challenge traditional methods of curriculum planning. While in traditional curriculum planning the teacher focuses on a list of content that will be taught, in backward course design, the educator starts with goals, creates assessments, and, finally, makes lesson plans. Flipped learning is the result of a collaborative effort by which information assimilation takes place in the classroom, rather than through lectures, by students’ participation in consequential activities.
Introducing these new pedagogical approaches in which the teacher is involved in creating and curating relevant content for students and with students, Vandegrift had an immense impact on science education at the University of Oregon, first within the Science Literacy Program and then in transforming the teaching culture within the Department of Biology where core courses are now taught as flipped courses.
Vandegrift has attained national prominence through her participation in conferences and institutions that focus on promoting more effective science education at the college level. Notably, she was elected to be both a National Academies Fellow and a mentor in the life sciences, a PULSE (Partnership in Undergraduate Life Sciences Education) ambassador.
In recognition of her achievement and expertise in the area of science literacy, Elly Vandegrift is a recipient of a 2017 Thomas F. Herman Award for Specialized Pedagogy.