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Reading Reflections

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  • Identify and describe one of your courses that will serve as your “project course” for the work you do at the Institute. 

A two level course in Cell biology. This is a course intended for majors but many pre-med students take it because much of the material is relavent to the MCAT.

  • What constraints influence how you teach this course?  (e.g., large class size, laboratory format, non-majors) 

It is often a large class with over 150 students. May of them are transfer students so it is never clear how many of the students have the exact prerequisits we expect them to have.

It is a lecture class often taught in a terrible room that is very hot and has a screen that is very hard to see.

Most of the students are pre-med and are very interetsed in thier grades and not very interested in how much they actually learn.

Students have very limited study skills, many are first generation college students or ESL learners. Many also have full time jobs.

We have no TA's so it is challenging to give assessments that are anything but multiple choice, though I always put a few short answer questions on the test.

  • What do you hope the students will learn in your course?

There is a set of key course content that students are required to aquire in order to participate in the learning in the course. I teach content almost directly from the textbook since much of the information is general and the students find it very helpful to have this as a resource.

I want to engage the students and make them care about the material, want to learn it and see how it realates to other information they have learned in this class and other courses.

I want them to understand the scientific method, know that someone had to have a question about how this aspect of cell biology works and then imagine they live in a world without this information and then design ways to experimentally answer this question.


  • How do you determine whether students have achieved the learning you describe in question #3?

I currently give 10 content knowledge quizzes (1/week) to help ensure that students are up to date.

I also give 2 tests and a final exam. Most of the questions on these tests are multiple choice because of the large class size thus it is hard to assess anything beyond content knowledge. I also ask 3 short answer questions and I try to use these to assess things beyond content, usually they include some experimental design.

  • Provide a list of 3–4 specific assessment strategies you are most interested in exploring during the Assessment Institute?

I would love some suggestions for how to efficiently assess deeper learning in a large classroom setting. I am not sure what they might be. Particularly online testing stratagies or peer evaluations that would reduce my grading workload but still be insightful.

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