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Spencer Benson



  • Higher Ed: Science, Higher Ed: Other 


Dr. Spencer Benson is the Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, associate professor in the Dept. of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics and an affiliate associate professor in the Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction. He received his B.S. degree in Zoology from the University of Vermont and his Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Chicago. As director of the Center for Teaching Excellence he is responsible for overseeing more than 20 programs designed to improve teaching and learning through professional development of faculty, graduate students and undergraduates. He serves as a university resource for the development and implementation of student learning outcomes. Dr. Benson has served as departmental director of undergraduate studies, director of the departmental honors program, a consultant for Project 2061, the Quality Undergraduate Education (QUE) initiative, the Coalition for Education in the Life Science (CELS), Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibility (SENCER), and the Center for Advancement of Stem Education (CASE). He has been involved in numerous K-16 education initiatives at Maryland including an on-line Master Program in the Life Sciences for high school biology teachers He is Co-PI on a number of science education grants including the MD-K16 NSF Math-Science Partnership, an NSF (National Science Foundation Change and Sustainability in Higher Education (CASH) grant and Project NEXUS, a NSF grant for improving elementary and middle school science teaching and a NSF grant for improving scholarship in teaching in the biological sciences. He is past chair of the Undergraduate Education Committee of the American Society of Microbiology (ASM), past chair of ASM's Div-W (Teaching) and currently is as member of ASM's International Education Committee. He is a founding member of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSoTL) and the ASM sponsored Biological Scholars Program. He is a University of Maryland CTE-Lilly Teaching Fellow, a 2001 Carnegie Academy for the Advancement of Scholarship in Teaching and Learning (CASTL) fellow. He has received numerous teaching awards including, the College of Chemical and Life Science teaching award, the 2002 CASE-Carnegie Maryland Professor of the Year award, and the 2003 University of Maryland System Regents Teaching Award. His research interest include anti-microbial activities in traditional Chinese herbal medicines, the development of pedagogies for teaching science for all students, assessment of student learning and K14 science education. In 2000 he was a visiting faculty member at Academia Sinica in Taiwan and in 2007 received a small Ministry of Education grant to study science education in Taiwan. He was awarded 2008-09 he was a visiting Fulbright Scholars to the University of Hong Kong where he work on the 3-4-4 Hong Kong General Education Initiative and Outcome Based Student Learning. Dr. Benson has been a AP-Biology exam reader (6 years), test item reviewer, and Co-chaired the AP-Biology Redesign Commission (2006-2007), was a member of the AP-Biology Review Advisory Panel (2008) and Co-chairs the AP-Biology Curriculum, Development and Assessment Committee (2008-2010 continues to work with the College Board in implementing a new 21st Century biology curriculum that focuses on depth of understanding, concepts and science processes rather than broad content coverage. Dr. Benson has organized local, national and international meetings on science education, scholarship in teaching and learning (SoTL) and faculty development. He has done more than 100 workshops on teaching, learning, course developments and assessment nationally and internationally. He has published numerous articles on science education, pedagogy, and professional development of graduate student and faculty.  


Science learning for all
On-line teaching
Technology enhancement of teaching 


Benson, S. A. Center for Teaching Excellence Newsletter on Teaching and Learning articles on teaching, available on Please click here for a full list of the articles.

Benson, S. A., 2009. General Education in Hong Kong for the 21st Century: A Case Study of the University of Hong Kong, A report for the Hong Kong American Center.

Benson, S. A., A. Bedford, et al. 2008. The Next Challenge and Frontier: Digital Learners and Digital Teachers. Asia-Pacific Sub-regional Preparatory, Conference for the 2009 World Conference on Higher Education, "Facing Global and Local Challenges: the New Dynamics for Higher Education". Macao, SAR PR China.

Yuan, R., Benson, S., Chang, S., & Gulick, D., 2007. The Global University: The Restructuring of Undergraduate Science and Engineering Courses and the Development of International Partnerships. Sci. Ed. & Civic Engagement 2:42-50.