Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Our courses need 'process' objectives

Last spring a group of faculty (including me) put a lot of effort into developing detailed descriptions of the curricula of our first-year biology courses. Along with this we developed a list of about 30 learning objectives - abilities we wanted our students to acquire by taking these courses.

Recently we realized that, although we had done an excellent job on the scientific content of the courses, we had overlooked the need to explicitly describe the more general abilities we want our students to acquire. This category would include advanced reading and writing skills, the ability to interpret and design tests and experiments, and such learning skills as the ability to identify the gaps and confusions in their understanding (I think Dick Cheney called these "unknown unknowns").

So on Friday a sub-group of us are sitting down to begin developing these objectives for our first-year classes.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Preparing for Reading Week projects

I just had a meeting with the people looking after UBC's Learning Exchange, to discuss the arrangements that will let students in my classes participate in Reading Week projects. In these projects the students will spend their week off working as part of groups enhancing the experience of children in schools located in Vancouver's poorest communities (mainly the "downtown east side").

The biggest issue for me is to be sure the projects my students do include some biology, because I want to give academic credit for this work. The nature of the projects is driven mainly by the teachers' knowledge of their students' needs, and by the interests of the graduate students who coordinate the projects, but it should be possible to make sure our projects have a biology component.