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Teaching Responsibilities

 

Course Name
Course Level
Number of Students
Type of Student
Demographics
Survey of Biology I
Biology 101
1000
Non-majors, including pharmacy, agriculture majors (1st semester)
Approximately 50% female, 50% males. 40% are first generation college students. Very few minorities are represented. Of the minorities Native Americans represent the largest group and about 2% of the class
General Biology I
Biology 151
384
Biology/Microbiology/Ecology & Environmental Science Majors; pre-professional specializations, biology secondary education specialization, plant science majors, and pre-vet majors (1st semester)
Approximately 50% female, 50% males. 40% are first generation college students. Very few minorities are represented. Of the minorities Native Americans represent the largest group and about 2% of the class
General Biology II
Biology 153
384
Biology/Microbiology/Ecology & Environmental Science Majors; pre-professional specializations, biology secondary education specialization, plant science majors, and pre-vet majors (2nd semester)
Approximately 50% female, 50% males. 40% are first generation college students. Very few minorities are represented. Of the minorities Native Americans represent the largest group and about 2% of the class
Each semester I teach one of the above courses. For each course, I am responsible for the entire course with the help of a Faculty Lab Coordinator and several graduate student lab instructors. My role is to oversee/coordinate the course, present lecture material, align lab material with lecture material, create exams, design online homework assignments, and manage the course management system (grades, content, and communication through Desire2Learn).

 

 

 

Student Learning Challenge

Background: Through my experiences with introductory courses I have encountered numerous freshmen students who admit that it is difficult and overwhelming for them to read the textbook assigned to the course. Many also admit that in high school they did not use textbooks. Reading skills are critical to college success. It is my interest to improve course success, student retention in the sciences, and university retention by introducing formal reading skill activities into Introductory Biology courses.

 

Evidence: While I understand, reading is only one aspect of course performance it is an area that I believe can be improved. In 2010, nationwide 47% of high school graduates took the ACT. Of these students, 52% met the reading benchmark of 21 (ACT, 2010). South Dakota State University is considered an open enrollment university and many of our students fall below the benchmark score. Only those students with a reading score of 17 or below are required to take a reading course. Studies indicate that even with an ACT reading score of 21 students struggle with reading comprehension at the college level (Martino, Norris, and Hoffman, 2001). It is common to experience test scores of below 70% in the college level biology classes. In my courses, about 50% of the students receive a D or F on their exams. Some of these students indicate that they did not understand what the question was asking, pointing to a lack of reading comprehension skills.

 

Study: During my residency, I propose to design a study that measures the success of implementing a reading activity that improves student success and retention. In addition to establishing experimental design, during my residency, I would need to gather data on the student population in Introductory Biology class at South Dakota State University. This data includes ACT scores, 1 and 2nd semester college GPA, biology exam performance, and retention information. I have also considered looking at the impact of improved reading skills on student perception and the sciences; though I believe this would be beyond the scope of the initial project and would likely be considered for future research.

 

Studies to consider for experimental design include the use of Calibrated Peer ReviewTM (Robinson, 2001) and a comparison of two different methods of teaching reading comprehension to college freshmen (Martino, Norris and Hoffman , 2001). Listed below are approaches that I have considered for my study that would include either a non-majors or a majors Introductory Biology course. Regardless of the approach, I am concerned how to ethically conduct such a study.

Potential approaches:

·         The use of our Summer Orientation Program as a mechanism to randomly assign students to a test group that is provided a reading assessment test, reading skills training and a web activity to complete before returning to campus. The control group would be orientation groups not selected to participate. I am not sure the timing of this approach would work. It would work for a pilot group (350 control, 30 test) and then could be replicated the following summer with an additional 200 subjects.

·         The use of our multi-section non-majors Biology course to assign the test and control group. At the start of the semester I could administer and assign one section of 384 students the reading assessment/skills activity and compare their performance to the control section of 384 students.

·         The use of volunteers in the majors course to participate in a study and design and administer two separate approaches to compare; or I could assign one approach to the non-majors section and another to the second non-majors section.

·         The use of the first week of labs to randomly assign and launch the study in the majors course.

·         Other approaches to be determined.

 

References:

ACT (2010). The Condition of College & Career Readiness. August 18, 2010.

http://www.act.org/research/policymakers/cccr10/about.html, accessed February 21, 2010.

 

Martino, N.L., Norris, J.A., Hoffman, P.R. (2001). Reading Comprehension Instruction: Effects of two types. Journal of Developmental Education, 25:1, 2-12.

 

Robinson, R. (2001).Calibrated Peer Review™ an Application to Increase Student Reading & Writing Skills. The American Biology Teacher,63: 7, 474-476+478-480.

 

Personal and Professional goals

My personal and professional goals include the publication of Biology: Organisms and Adaptations (non-majors textbook) in 2012, the completion of my PhD (2013), and achieving tenure at South Dakota State University (2014). Underlying these achievements is the desire to improve my skills as an educator and researcher, which will enhance the success of undergraduate education.

 

While I have not directly participated in scholarly research, I have actively participated in events on and off campus with the focus of improving undergraduate education. I have aligned my yearly objectives in order to achieve my personal goals. The objectives below are directly from my annual performance evaluation (submitted January 2011).

 

Teaching Objectives

·         Continue to improve undergraduate education though training 35 departmental graduate teaching assistants. Continue to develop the training program and materials.

·         Provide academic excellence for students enrolled in Introductory Biology courses.

·         Work closely with new Biol 190 course to enhance freshman experiences and student success.

·         Develop vodcasts for 2 Introductory Biology labs to free up time to incorporate more inquiry based learning

·         Improve Biology labs by introducing lab prep assignments, homework, and lab vodcasts

 

Research Objectives

·         Continue progress towards PhD by making significant progress on research project

·         Apply to Biology Scholars Residency Program to develop skills on conducting scholarly research. If accepted, actively participate and complete residency program focusing research on improving performance of freshman biology students. Project to be determined.

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