Implementing a Skills-Based Biotechnology Program


September 28, 2011
J. Kirk Brown
Tracy High School, Tracy, California

The process of developing a biotechnology education program at your school is one that can take on many forms. One strategy that has been successful is to base the program development on skills that are utilized in the biotechnology industry. A skills-based approach is best implemented when the skills can be clearly identified and assessed by both teacher and students. The experiments and/or activities utilized should be aligned with the skills to be mastered and be organized in such a way that they build upon each other, reinforcing and expanding the use of such skills. Equipment and supplies can be added as funds become available, but initial implementation can take place with minimal equipment. A capstone project will be suggested as a way to give students a method to gain experience and mastery during independent laboratory work. Mentoring by more experienced group members is another strategy that working laboratories use to teach skills in the academic and industrial lab environments and is discussed as an additional strategy.

Speaker's Biography

J. Kirk Brown

J. Kirk Brown is a national board certified teacher with extensive experience teaching at the high school and college levels. Kirk has been teaching at Tracy High School in Tracy, CA for more than 24 years and currently holds the position of Science Department Chair there. He is a key figure in helping students develop into savvy biologists by integrating his teaching with inspiring hands-on laboratory experiences in his International Baccalaureate Biology and Biotechnology courses. Kirk's passion for education extends into and beyond the postsecondary level as an adjunct associate professor at San Joaquin Delta College, where he has taught courses in Core Biology and Fundamentals of Biotechnology. His many collaborations between industry and education have led to significant teacher and student advancements. Over his career he has helped to form the Agricultural/Scientific Academy at Tracy High School and worked extensively at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as a master teacher helping to develop the Edward Teller Education Center's curriculum. Kirk has presented more than 350 workshops in four countries. He is also deeply involved in educational technology and leads his department in integrating various strategies into everyday teaching.