General Biology as Discovering the Story of Life

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Title of Abstract: General Biology as Discovering the Story of Life

Name of Author: Nancy Auer
Author Company or Institution: Michigan Technological University
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Ecology and Environmental Biology, Evolutionary Biology, General Biology, Organismal Biology
Course Levels: Introductory Course(s)
Approaches: Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development
Keywords: General Biology Inquiry Discovery of story Organismal Evolution

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: My goals/outcomes That the students grasp and discover the story, they begin to see how it grows and unfolds as we move though class and then into other classes how it relates. That they don't rote memorize but can understand and speak concepts to others, roommates, parents, etc. That they develop synthesis skills and critically evaluate material. That they can begin to see their own ability to evaluate how they are doing - know their own 'grade'

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: In 'lecture class' I use discussion in both small and large class groupings of pre-assigned material, asking for things like constructing timelines, concept maps, etc. I use a 'blue book' where small groups record answers and discussions and participation on questions. I use the book Your Inner Fish weekly to synthesize with what is in textbook and what is happening in laboratory. We also have voluntary current event reports. I try and develop the learning as an unfolding story of evolution and organismal life/biology. I use inquiry based laboratory - week one is a prepared lab and then week two is a laboratory where they have asked a question beyond what happened in first lab and test their own experiments the second week.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: My evaluation methods include 1) an individual written research paper using a starter article from current (within past year) Science issues. I will try a 2 person approach this year 2013 assigning 2 people to same article and both help each other finding and discussing papers but each turn in separate papers. 2) Evaluation of class notes, and blue books 3) Laboratory reports (rubric given) 4) 2 short answer/essay exams 5) class participation

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: My pre- and post-short answer tests show students can answer 41% more of the questions at the end of the class without memorization or study. I give this the same day I have my own teaching performance evaluations now and students see and write on my evals that they can see they have made improvement over the semester. I am on the department curriculum and assessment committees and have helped develop the capstone course for senior synthesis. I will also be teaching in 2014 with a new faculty member who is presently on maternity leave.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Our university requires that a syllabus be given out the first week of class. I have been developing my syllabus in old style - read x pages/day prior to coming to class. I will now approach it differently with concept ideas and either shorter readings or more directed readings from articles or even videos. I started out by grading students on weekly reflections but it took a great deal of weekend time to get through 70 reflections and identify areas of work for following week. I now ask for some short written responses done during some class periods instead, at least weekly. The need to not have one student drop out is a challenge - trying to keep everyone engaged - each year I try to offer more and more types of help through our Biology Learning center, GTAs and office hours and email.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: I am involved in the University wide assessment and working in my department on our assessment of learning. I have pre- and post- tests in my Gen Bio course, and share those results and laboratory reports as part of assessment. Through these activities I influence others in our department and others on campus see our successes.

Acknowledgements: Both my previous Department chair (Mike Gibson) and director of CTL at MTU (William Kennedy) were instrumental in encouraging me as I often got poor teaching evaluations due to my unwillingness to simply provide answers or tell students exactly what they needed to know. Both my previous Department chair (Mike Gibson) and director of CTL at MTU (William Kennedy) were instrumental in encouraging me as I often got poor teaching evaluations due to my unwillingness to simply provide answers or tell students exactly what they needed to know. Both these individuals supported and encouraged me to continue to develop this type of teaching. Also all those at the 2010 AAAS conference in San Diego and the many presenters speaking on Vision and Change.