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Reading Reflections

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First let me say that I liked this chaper so much that I bought the book and had the library order a copy.  I haven't had a chance to read all of the book, but I wish that I could give a copy of the chapter on "Better Organizational Support of Faculty" to each of our administrators.

My project course will be Biology 211, General Biology 1 for science majors.  Even though this is the first semeseter of general biolgy, it has a 200 number because many of our students have to take developmental English and math and those courses are perrequisites for this course.  It is a 4 credit course with 3 hours for "lecture" and 2 hours for lab each week.  Although we have MS student teaching assistants for the laboratories, the professors teach the labs and TAs assist with set up, cleaning up, help students during the lab period and help with grading.  It is a class of 50-70 that is considered large for our school that prides itself on small classes.  It covers an introduction to science, ecology and evolution.  There are several challenges to the course. 1) Student preparation goes from not needing the class to being completely unprepared to take on a college class. 2) Different people teach the class different semesters and we don't have comon learning goals, activities or assessments 3) Faculty members have had some training in active learning techniqes and thse teaching this class are enthusiastic but not very sure about what we are trying to do. 4) students are much more familiar with traditional classes and say that they like "hands-on" stuff but just want us to lecture instead of doing active learing activities.

In addition to introductory ecology and evolution we want them to learn the nature of science which to me means how to "think like a scientist".  I have other lofty goals such as those discussed in the reading.  I want the students to "learn to learn" because many of them have approximately zero study skills, assess their own learning more acurately, construct and interpret graphs, work in a group, express themselves in biological science and learn critical and reflective thinking.

One of the main assessments for communication skills is formal lab reports that we have students write in the lab section of the course.  Lab reports, exams and homework exercises are all used to assess graph construction and interpretation.  Each lab report requires at least one graph and there is graph construction and/or interpretation on each exam.  Content and application of content to solve problems I assess mainly with exam and clicker questions.

I would really like to know better ways to assess critical and reflective thinking which is one of our university wide learning goals.  How does one do formative assessment say of homeowork assigmnets without actually reading eachone and writing comments back to the students?  What is a reasonable way to use learning portfolios with a relatively large class of > about 15 students?

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