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Course Redesign: The redesign of an introductory biology course Dr. Donald P. French Professor of Zoology Coordinator, University Faculty Preparation.

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Presentation on theme: "Course Redesign: The redesign of an introductory biology course Dr. Donald P. French Professor of Zoology Coordinator, University Faculty Preparation."— Presentation transcript:


2 Course Redesign: The redesign of an introductory biology course Dr. Donald P. French Professor of Zoology Coordinator, University Faculty Preparation Program Oklahoma State University Workshop on Academic Transformation and Collaboration: Reimagining Higher Education in Missouri 26 October 2010

3 Funding for various portions of this work was provided in part by the National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and OSU

4 Disclaimer Ph.D. in Ethology @ Indiana University studied behavior and ecology of fish @ U. Maryland studied behavior and ecology of crabs @ OSU study behavior and ecology of students Learned education like science –From literature –From colleagues –From experimenting

5 Setting Land Grant Institution Research Primary Focus Introductory Biology for Majors and Non-majors Six – Seven Faculty teach 6-7 lecture sections Approximately 1600 students/yr Admission Requirements –ACT 21 is minimum score for regular admission (officially) OR –Top 1/3 of graduating classes (officially) Graduating class could be 500 or 7!!

6 SCST Position Statement The major goals of introductory college science courses are “to contribute to the scientific literacy and critical thinking capability of all college students and… to provide a conceptual base for subsequent courses taken in the disciplines.”

7 Why do we teach the way we do? It is the way we were taught. We find that style most comfortable. We think it is the most efficient. We are constrained by time, space, money. It’s easy for us.

8 But are those good reasons? What is good for the students is not always what is good for the professors. -- Bob Tallitsch, Augustana College


10 Why do instructors think lectures work? If we throw “bricks” of knowledge at the heads of students, why are we surprised when the students duck? --Jeff Weld, University of Northern Iowa

11 How People Learn People are not blank slates or empty vessels to be filled

12 They don’t retain isolated information They must organized it But how does this organization arise?

13 Organization reflects connections Concept Factfact

14 Experts… notice features and meaningful patterns of information have considerable content knowledge organized to reflect a deep understanding of the concepts. (Big Ideas) treat knowledge NOT as set of isolated facts, but as sets of information relevant to particular circumstances or problems that experts know when to use can quickly retrieve relevant knowledge with little attention. have varying levels of flexibility in their approach to new situations.

15 Students should develop competence when they: –have deep foundation of factual knowledge –understand those facts in a conceptual framework –organize knowledge to allow retrieval and application

16 Students arrive with preconceptions of how things work. may not grasp new concepts and information, especially for the long term, if their initial understanding of each concept is not engaged.

17 Students are more successful if they learn to identify their own learning goals and monitor their progress (metacognition; reflection).

18 Principles from research on science learning (Novak 2006) Prior knowledge influences new learning Information processing capacity is limited Thinking, feeling and acting are integrated Learning takes place in context

19 What should a class look like?

20 We didn’t always teach like this! Biology 1114 - general education (non-majors) covering Ecology, Genetics(Mendelian), Evolution; 4 sections of 140 students (approx.) per semester, common 2hr lab (Zoology/Botany) Biology 1214-general-education (non-majors) covering Chemistry, Cells, Genetics(Molecular), Plants & Animal systems; 1-2 sections of 100 students (approx.) per semester; common 2hr lab (Microbiology/Botany/Zoology) Biology 1304-general education (majors) covering, Cells, Chemistry, Ecology, Genetics (Mendelian & Molecular), Evolution; 3 Sections of 100 (approx.) per semester; common 2hr lab (Zoology/Botany/Microbiology)

21 Traditional Course Pedagogy Expository format - in textbook order chalkboard/overheads; multimedia- overheads in one non-majors course Emphasis on recall (facts/min) Lecture assessment – 3 quarterly exam; cumulative final

22 Motivation for change? Faculty Thought –Students lack reasoning skills –Students perform poorly –Students have poor attitude Students Thought –Course lacks relevance –Faculty can't teach –Only memorization –boring.....

23 Impact of courses Surveyed students “attitude toward biology” before and after each semester Russell and Hollander (1975) 14 questions 5 point Likert scale Sum scores and subtract pre- from post-course

24 We looked elswhere Non-majors courses –Gogolin and Swartz (1992) –Sundberg & Dini (1992) –Ebert-May et. al. (1997) –Rogers & Ford (1997) All found that non-majors were less negatively affected by their courses.

25 Reform begins when SkepticsTrue-believers Shared vision

26 How did we proceed? First step –Form a committee! First step for the committee –Argue about content! Not Surprising

27 Starting Point (typical) For a course –Individual professor selects topics either based on the textbook or on personal preferences –Make up some tests For a Program –Either Committee, which then –Argues about content Leave it to individual professors (specialty/retirement)

28 Starting Point (as it should be) Identify Learning Outcomes –What should a student know (content) –What should a student be able to do (process, skills) –What should be a student’s habits of mind? Develop Assessments Develop Activities and Exercises This is referred to as Backwards Design Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe

29 Characteristics of Curricula sufficient rigor –(demanding concepts), focus –(concentration on a few topics to be covered in depth), coherence –(organization of the topics and identifiable connections among the topics and processes)

30 Consider: How People Learn Students arrive with knowledge and misconceptions Students need deep factual knowledge and a means of organizing that knowledge Students need to develop metacognitive practices

31 Consider Cognitive Development Even in college - 15-25% Concrete Thinkers 50-60% are in transition between Concrete and Formal (abstract) thinking 25% are Formal Thinkers

32 Disconnect in Overall Goals Faculty set them as –Concept Mastery –Critical Thinking But test –Knowledge Acquisition (Basic) –Communication Skills Students set them as –Job Preparedness

33 Guidelines Promote critical thinking, higher order cognitive skills, and a capacity for problem solving and decision making. work collaboratively on meaningful tasks, requires intellectual rigor based on an in depth understanding of essential content and its relevant contextual framework. diagnose and attend to student's learning styles…, prior knowledge and alternative conceptions. foster the nature of the thinking required to acquire and integrate both procedural and declarative knowledge. Use the language & concepts of science appropriately, and effectively Use methods & models of science to select, define, solve & evaluate problems in- dependently & collaboratively. Design, conduct, communicate, and evaluate.… meaningful experiments. Make scientifically based decisions and solve problems Evaluate critically evidence, interpretations, results and solutions in a real life context. Explain scientifically related knowledge Ask meaningful questions

34 Selecting Content Biology may be a set of disciplines – –Fragmented fields and departments Nature of the discipline results in few guiding principles –Could it be Evolution? –Emergent Properties? Much of biology might still be considered descriptive in nature

35 Our simple approach Provide Stories or Situations for Context About topics to which students can relate using concepts faculty used in their research introduced on a Need-to-Know Basis to solve problems that indicated that Science is Fun!

36 More Recent & Sophisticated Hierarchical Framework ( Khodor, Halme & Walker 2004 ) –1. Enduring Understanding –2-3. Important –4. Familiar Learning-Goals-Driven Design ( Krajcik, Mcneil Reiser 2008 ) –Unpack components from standards –Develop Learning Performances (Content X Practice) –Align Goals, Activities, Assessment Attention to Sequence ( Crow & Harless 2006 )


38 Vision and Change: Core Concepts General agreement: Evolution Pathways and transformations of energy and matter Information flow, exchange, and storage Structure and function Systems

39 Vision and Change: Beyond Content Nature of Science –the process of science –the interdisciplinary nature of biology –how science is closely integrated within society Interpersonal Skills –communication –collaboration Analytical Skills –a certain level of quantitative competency –a basic ability to understand and interpret data –experience with modeling, simulation, and computational and systems-level approaches to biological discovery and analysis, as well as with using large databases.

40 New Course New BIOL 1114: A single, one- semester, general- education class suitable for majors –(that doesn't scare the non-majors)

41 BIOL 1114 Introductory Biology –For any major (science or non-science) 4-7 Sections of 60-220 students –1900 students/year 50 or 75 minute periods 4-7 Lecture Professors 24 Teaching Assistants

42 Provide context for learning 10 Scenarios –Stories or Situations –Provide meaningful context for concepts –Emphasize application Facts/Concepts on a need to know basis Integrated topics Discuss topics at multiple levels: Biochemical…cellular…sub-cellular …community…organismal….ecosystem


44 Concepts applied in various situations Surface Area – to – Volume Ratio –Thermoregulation –Osmoregulation –Cell size and structure –Photosynthesis –Transpiration

45 Integrate-Connect Information Tundra (Biome) Thermoregulation Respiration Cellular Respiration from different levels

46 Promote Teacher-Student & Peer Interactions Students collaborate in groups of 3-4 35-63 groups/lecture section Same groups throughout semester in lecture and lab Students regularly given opportunity to discuss materials during lecture Students perform in-class group exercises

47 Active learning and formative evaluation Intersperse lectures and in-class exercises Duration: –5 Minutes –30 seconds –Longer periods Media –Cards –Clickers

48 A.They would shrink B.They would expand C.There would be no change If the vacationing slug family's internal fluid salt concentration was 0.9% and that of the great salt lake was 5%, what affect would swimming have on their cells?

49 Exercises to promote higher order thinking Solve problem –Sample test questions Offer Opinions Observe - Generalize Observe and Propose Hypotheses Design Experiment

50 Laboratory Provide Question & Background in story form Students propose hypotheses before lab Students work in groups to design and conduct experiment

51 Provide Support LRC WWW Tutorials Facilitators Organizers Self-analysis

52 Assessment of Students “should be matched … to anticipated student outcomes” “cognitive and process gains, particularly those associated with higher order cognitive skills should be appropriately appraised” “Alternative … assessment should be … used for … outcomes that cannot be evaluated by traditional means.”

53 Assessment – Levels of thinking Recall –Define term or concept Comprehension –Explain term or concept Application –Solve problem; use concept in another context Analyze & Interpret –Compare/contrast; see implication; induction; identify cause and effect Synthesize –Combine ideas to form explanation Evaluate –Judge value of information Bloom’s Taxonomy, 1956

54 Summative Evaluation of Students Common exams for all sections All exams cumulative Heavy emphasis on application+ –Require students to propose hypotheses, make predictions, interpret data Provide preview of material (scenarios)

55 At a crime scene, a detective gathers evidence to support her hypothesis that a man poisoned his wife with an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Which of the following reports from the medical examiner would best support her hypothesis? a) The woman died from paralysis and gradual loss of hear/lung function. b) The woman died because her neurons could no longer secrete neurotransmitters. c) The woman died because the inhibitor made mitochondrial membranes permeable to protons. d) The woman died from seizures and rapid contraction of both heart and breathing muscles. e) None of the above would support her hypothesis.

56 Assessment: Instruments Compared Attitude and Content Knowledge –Beginning (pre-test) and End-of-Semester (post-test) surveys (does not enter into course grade) Selected 40 of the 80 question NABT/NSTA High School Biology Exit Exam Attitude toward Biology Survey (Russell and Hollander, 1975) –Demographic Data Sex Class Standing (1 st year, 2 nd year, …) Major ACT Composite Scores

57 Conclusions of Reform Assessment Student-centered pedagogy improves attitudes toward biology –Significantly for all but a few groups –Improvement ranged from less negative to more positive –Did not decline –Degree of improvement affected by ACT, sex, class standing, major

58 Conclusions Student –centered pedagogy can be equally effective at conveying basic content knowledge –At the same level for majors –Declined for some non-majors –Effect of ACT, sex, class standing, & major interact with course effect

59 Conclusions Trade-off seems positive –Majors will still “get what they need” –Students are not turned off by science; may even like it –Students perform acceptably on application- oriented & process skills assessments NC

60 Grade Distributions 33% v. 20%

61 Opinions of Course Components 48 question End of Semester Survey 5 point Likert Scale –Strongly Agree –Agree –Neither Agree nor Disagree –Disagree –Strongly Disagree

62 This class kept me more involved & attentive than if it were just lecture.

63 I like the idea of introducing concepts through scenarios

64 I liked seeing how biological concepts and facts are related rather than just following the book. C

65 Inquiry in two-year college Nick Roster, Northwestern Michigan College

66 Treatments Traditional Lecture and Lab (TT) Traditional Lecture – Inquiry Lab (TI) Inquiry Lecture and Lab (II) S

67 TTTIII Attitude Self-Efficacy Science Reasoning Summary

68 Behavior in Laboratories Connie Russell Angelo State University

69 Conclusions Gender differences in participation in both hands-on activities and time spent talking on task that were found in traditional labs were not seen in inquiry labs This suggests that the inquiry-based teaching style may be more equitable for females than the "cookbook" style without being detrimental to participation, attitude or achievement by males.

70 How to reform….. Create a shared vision Decide on the outcomes Design the assessments Design Engagements/Activities Use scholarship to shape practice Consider need for support (technology) Don’t be afraid to have fun biol1114.

71 Questions?

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