Postdoctoral researchers in any field of biology are invited to participate in FIRST IV for Postdoctoral Fellows, funded by the National Science Foundation and associated with five regional field station networks throughout the United States (locations and dates described on Workshop Dates & Locations).  Individuals or teams of two postdocs from one institution are encouraged to apply.



All current applications are in the review process.

We are no longer accepting applications for 2011-2012.

We will inform all applicants of the final decisions as soon as possible.


Workshop Project Description


FIRST IV is designed to reform undergraduate science education through professional development of postdocs who will design an inquiry-based, student-centered undergraduate biology course. Key elements of FIRST IV include active learning, assessment, and diversity in teaching. Postdocs will attend two workshops during consecutive summers, a four-day workshop in 2011 followed by a three-day workshop in 2012. During the academic year between the two workshops, postdocs will teach all or part of an introductory biology course (e.g., cell biology, genetics, ecology, organisms/populations, evolution; for majors or non-majors) at their home institution using the course framework they designed during the workshop. A team of scientists who are expert innovators, teachers, and professional developers will conduct the workshops at the field stations. They will also mentor the postdocs via teleconferencing during the academic year.

SERC Postdoc

Program Activities

Workshop 1: 2011 (4 days plus two travel days)
Postdocs will learn to actively engage students in both large and small courses, use individual and group learning strategies, and multiple kinds of assessments. We will introduce current research about how students learn, model effective instructional design, and critically analyze assessment data that provides evidence for student learning. We will begin to work on the design and development of a biology course using backward design. Postdocs will evaluate a variety of approaches and instructional resources, and then practice adapting resources and assessment tools for their course. Throughout the workshop, we will address the practical realities of classroom logistics and time, diversity, and challenges to innovation. Postdocs will experience all the components of a learner-centered classroom.


Mentored Teaching Experience during Academic Year 1
Between Workshops 1 and 2, the postdocs will teach all or part of an introductory biology course of any type. A key component of this teaching experience is that the postdocs will have the autonomy to begin to implement and practice what they learned in Workshop 1. In addition, postdocs will continue to work with their team on development of course materials that began in Workshop 1.


Workshop 2: 2012: (3 days plus two travel days)

The postdocs will reflect on and discuss the challenges they experienced during their teaching experience. During this workshop they will analyze and revise their course design informed by student assessment data from their teaching during the previous academic year. Postdocs will further engage in active learning and scientific teaching (teaching science as it is practiced), now with the first-hand teaching experience necessary to further their professional development. During this workshop they will peer-review each other’s course packages, again applying how they do science – i.e., learning through peer review. An advantage of the FIRST IV network is that if postdocs change locations between workshops 1 and 2, they can easily continue participation and gain sustained support from the nearest field station leaders.


Mentored Teaching Experience during Academic Year 2

After completion of Workshop 2, ideally the postdocs will have the opportunity to teach their new course, perhaps in a new faculty position or at their home institution. FIRST IV will continue to provide mentoring to the participants.


Responsibilities of Postdoctoral Scholars


Participant Costs


The NSF is sponsoring all expenses for workshop participants at field stations, including room, board, and instructional materials and will provide up to $400 in a transportation grant for each postdoc for each workshop attended.


Postdoctoral Scholar Data Collection


An important aspect of this project is evaluating the effectiveness and sustainability of curriculum change through classroom data. These are the data collection requirements for each postdoc: