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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.

My project course is BI103, Introduction to Cell Biology and Genetics.  The course is part of the introductory biology sequence for majors.  The course is typically taken during the first or second semester of freshman year. 


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

The main constraint on how I teach the course is in relation to content.  This course is a pre-requisite for all of the upper level courses in cell biology and genetics.  It is expected that students be exposed to the foundational concepts needed to be successful in those courses.  The main challenge I face in teaching this class is the varied level of background preparation of the students taking the class.  I usually see a bimodal distribution of grades on the examinations so I would like to find a method to bring the lagging students up to speed in a way that also keeps the better prepared students engaged. 


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

I want the students to understand how a cell functions at the molecular level.  I also want them to appreciate the nature of science and how scientists study the living world.  I want students to strengthen their analytical ability and problem solving skills.  Finally I would like them to contemplate current issues in biology and sharpen their writing skills. 


How do you determine whether students have achieved the learning you describe above? 

I use multiple methods to measure learning.  The primary method of assessment in BI103 involves traditional quiz/exam based assessment using short answer, multiple choice and matching questions.  I also use formative assessment during class in the form of clicker response questions embedded in the lectures.  I use rubric based assessment of longer term projects such as lab notebooks, reaction reports, and group constructed concept maps. 


Provide a list of 3-4 specific assessment strategies you are most interested in exploring during the Assessment Institute. 

  1. Are outcomes better if a quiz is given at the start of class, integrated into the lecture, at the end of class, or all of the above?  Is there another more effective way to leverage traditional quiz questions?  Is there an entirely different formative assessment method that would be more appropriate to use as a spot check during class (minute paper, pair and share, others)?  
  2. Is it possible to implement the construction of an exam study guide as a method of assessment?  What would this look like?  Can there be both formative and summative aspects to this type of activity?  Should students make their study guide individually or as part of a team?  How would the guide be assessed?  Can this activity be extended by helping students make their own practice quiz/exam questions? 
  3. How do you assess the success of a flipped classroom approach as compared to traditional lecture?  Should the same summative assessment methods used or do they need to be different?  What are the best methods for incorporating formative assessment in a flipped classroom? 
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