Plenary Speaker Profile (1998-99)
Sheila Tobias
Author and Lecturer on Education Reform in Science and Mathematics
What Makes Science "Hard"?

Science is perceived of as difficult. But does it have to be more difficult than other subjects? In a ground-breaking series of research projects, using experienced learners in disciplines other than science, Sheila Tobias found issues of overview, sequence, verbal ambiguities, pace, nature of exams, and the absence of "community" to be issues that science teachers could address as a way of increasing the success rate of their students.

Ms. Sheila Tobias, a lecturer on education reform and writer for the Research Corporation, has made a science and an art of promoting curricular reform from the outside. Educated in history and literature and having served as a university administrator and college trustee, she has tackled the question of why intelligent and motivated college students have task-specific disabilities in certain disciplines, particularly mathematics and science. She has authored six books, including: Overcoming Math Anxiety (1978, revised ed. 1994); They're Not Dumb They're Different: Stalking the Second Tier (1990); Revitalizing Undergraduate Science: Why Some Things Work and Most Don't (1992); and Rethinking Science as a Career: Perceptions and Realities in the Physical Sciences with Daryl E. Chubin and Kevin Aylesworth (1995). Her work in science and mathematics avoidance and anxiety has been funded by the Lilly Endowment, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, and the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education in the Department of Education.