Class: BIO174 -- Introductory Molecular Biology for Engineers
Location: 260 Dennison
Time:Tuesday and Thursday 3:00-5:00
My goal is to invigorate the introductory biology core course by implementing an active-learning format. Whereas the responsibility for teaching rests upon the instructor, it is equally important to make it clear to both instructors and students that the responsibility for learning rests with the students. There is no effective way to transfer knowledge from one person to another. Knowledge must be constructed, and learned, by each individual. Accordingly, I have moved away from the standard lecture/note-taking format and instead use an active-learning approach that I have been developing for the past few years. I think it is critical that this strategy be implemented starting with introductory biology. I want to show students how to learn, and the sooner this is done the better. In addition, we cannot afford to discourage students from pursuing additional courses or even a career in the field of biology by introducing them to biology with a course that is boring and does not present the essence of biological research inquiry.
The factual knowledge of biology is fascinating. However, that knowledge base is changing at a rapid rate. For that reason, it is less important to focus on any particular details than it is to develop a conceptual understanding of basic biological principles. There is insufficient time for this type of higher-order thinking when class time must be spent with the instructor essentially reading the text or lecture notes to the students. With the active-learning format, students are held responsible for the basic reading prior to the start of class each day. The use of reading quizzes provides a positive reinforcement for ensuring that active learning begins prior to class. The majority of class time then can be spent on group problem solving. In this format, students collaborate, rather than compete, in the learning process. Concept quizzes provide rapid feedback and allow both the student and instructor to follow the progress of each student in learning the material. The major emphasis is on keeping up, thus allowing the class to build on material that was covered in a previous session.
The main goals/outcomes of this approach include: 1. Students will be shown it is their responsibility to learn by taking an active role in the process; 2. They will be introduced to a scientific method of thinking through in-class problem solving; 3. The students will develop higher-order thinking skills because they will use the information they learn in problem solving. They will learn to synthesize the material in a conceptual manner, rather than simply memorize facts; 4. Achievement of these goals will be measured through objective evaluation based on exams developed specifically for this purpose.
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