New Intro Bio Approach

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Meeting Notes== March 2, 2010

Draft Objectives

What are the learning objectives for the course?

Students should be able to:

1) Describe the big ideas of biology, and explain them by providing examples at multiple levels of organization.

2) Apply what you have learned about the major themes for each big idea to new situations. When given a new case study, be able to identify the major themes and how they support the big ideas at the appropriate level of organization.

3) Analyze data that students have not seen before.

4) Formulate an hypothesis, and design a well controlled experiment to test that hypothesis.

5) Evaluate statements making claims about biological observations by using specific examples and data that support or refute the statements.

6) Use mathematics to explain biological concepts or specific examples.

7) Formulate an opinion about a biologically-related topic, and defend that opinion with supportive data.

What are the objectives for the assessment?

Compare students in experimental and control introductory biology courses along the following dimensions:

1) Retention of content. By content, we mean that students should retain specific facts such as oxygen dissolves better in a hemoglobin solution than in plain water. But they should also explain why this is true at high O2 concentrations but not low.

We would like them to retain factual information for longer as hypothesized by constructivist theory.

We also hope they develop analytical and quantitative skills better than control students.

Some content will be identical in general nature, while others will be unique. All students will learn replication, mitosis, meiosis, cellular respiration, etc. However, our students will deal with coopertivity, quorum sensing, etc.

This seems vague - retention at point of initial examination? at final exam? 3 months after semester is over? And what is meant by content? -material that is memorized and regurgitated? Or critical thinking and analytical skills? Or quantitative skills? Or all of the above? And is this "content" as defined by each individual instructor from different sections? Or core content that all sections should be learning? Answering this question will inform whether our assessment of content will be uniform across sections or will test the different content taught in different sections.

2a) Critical analysis of, and extraction of biological information from, data.
2b) Formulation of questions, testable hypotheses, and well controlled experiments based on previous data.

3) Perceptions of biology as a discipline, and science in general. (What role does vocabulary play?)

4) Enrollment in more biology courses.

To Do Lists


  1. Ask Dave and Jennifer if they are willing to participate at different levels of assessment (clicker daily, weekly, etc.) Dave and Jennifer willing to be assessed once a month including pre and post surveys
  2. It would be good if all Bio111 faculty could agree on all assessment objectives. I will ask about general principles first, and details as they take shape. We will write and assess all tools. Not full responses at this point. 5 Big Ideas obviously not their focus.
  3. Talk to Kevin about getting 4 color versions of my chapters in 3 hole versions. Approved.


  1. Edit the list of objectives above.

Time Line

Classes Start 234 August

End of March: agree upon objectives for course and assessment

By Graduation: agree on experimental design and assessment tools

By June 15: submit HSIRB form for approval.

By June 30: draft assessment tools

In July: test assessment tools and get student feedback; revise tools.

DRAFT Experimental Design

  • Students in three BIO111 classes during fall semester of 2010
  • Two types of assessment: content/skills (CS), and perceptions (P)
  • Stages of assessment
    • Fall semester
      • Start of classes – CS, P
      • late September – CS
      • late October – CS
      • late November/early December – CS, P
      • [need to specify dates, particularly in respect to syllabi for the three classes]
    • End of spring semester – CS, P
    • Annually until students graduate – CS, P
  • Examples of assessment of content/skills
  • Examples of assessment of perceptions
    • For each of the following areas, please rate your ability on a scale from 1 (weak) to 5 (strong).
      • Understand the most central concepts of biology
      • Apply biological concepts to new situations
      • Analyze biological data that you have not seen before
      • Formulate and test a hypothesis about a topic in biology
      • Use examples and data to evaluate claims and observations about biology
      • Use math to explain biological concepts and examples
      • Formulate and defend an opinion about a controversial topic in biology
      • Apply biological concepts outside the classroom
      • Understand the historical foundations of biology
      • Understand the ethical dilemmas of laboratory research
    • What is your perception of biology as a discipline?
      • A set of concepts, definitions, and processes to learn
      • A process of investigating questions
      • Other [OPEN-ENDED]
    • What biology courses have you taken so far in high school and college? [OPEN-ENDED]
    • What biology courses do you plan to take in the future? [OPEN-ENDED]
      • Did this course make you want to take more biology courses? Yes, no, don't know
      • Was this course fundamentally different than previous biology courses you have had? Yes, no.
        • [IF YES] How? [OPEN ENDED]