Thursday, October 04, 2007

Skill-Development Objectives for First-year Biology Courses

These objectives were developed by the sub-committee we put together at the end of August. We did it in only 2 meetings!

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Understanding of the scientific process:

Given a suitable description of an experiment, students should be able to identify the hypothesis or question being addressed, the experiment’s design, the possible outcomes of the experiment, the observed results, and the conclusion.
  • For first-year students, examples from the textbook or from everyday life are likely to be most appropriate.
  • Students should also be able to identify situations where the experimental design and/or results mean that no conclusion can be made.
Communication skills:
Students should be able to construct a logical and clearly expressed argument supporting a statement.

  • A Short Guide to Writing about Biology (Jan. A. Pechenik) is an excellent resource for writing assignments. Instructors may choose to require their students to obtain it and use it as a framework for one or more assignments.
  • Some instruction should be provided in class, possibly with examples of better and worse writing, but the actual writing can be done outside of class and assessed with WebCT, through the Help Centre or by peer review.
  • Students should also be given experience in verbal communication and group work by having opportunities to explain a concept to another student or small group of students.
Study skills
Students should be able to make effective use of textbooks, including the table of contents, glossary, end-of-chapter summaries, figures and diagrams, and study questions.
  • Students benefit from practice in constructing hierarchical summaries of information provided in textbooks and in lectures.
  • Interpreting an unlabelled diagram is a good exercise.
  • A textbook-based scavenger hunt for information is a good in-class exercise that could be done multiple times on different topics.
Societal context of science:
Students should be able to identify scientific issues relevant to societal problems, and societal issues arising out of scientific advances.
  • Instructors may wish to choose one issue relevant to course material for in-depth consideration by the class, or have students consider a number of issues throughout the course.
  • It is important that students gain experience in discovering the issues themselves, rather than simply learning about issues presented by the instructor.

1 comment:

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