Assessment of Student Learning

Biology Discipline


UNIT MISSION/GOAL(S)

The mission of the biology program is to teach high-quality science courses for undergraduate students, to provide research and other developmental opportunities for students and faculty, and to offer science-related outreach programs for the local and regional community. The biology curriculum for undergraduates majoring in biology is designed to provide students with an understanding of the major ideas of biology, to help them acquire the skills necessary to plan, carry out, and interpret laboratory and field studies in biology, and to allow them to develop their oral and written communication skills. The curriculum prepares students for graduate study in biology or related professions, for secondary school teaching and environmental education, and for employment in applied areas of biology such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and environmental assessment. The goals of the teaching program can best be achieved by a balanced curriculum that covers all of the major areas of biology and includes active field and laboratory work.


STUDENT LEARNING OBJECTIVES, EXPECTED OUTCOMES, ASSESSMENT METHODS & TOOLS, TIMELINE

Learning Objective 1
Students will acquire an understanding of the major ideas of biology and more specialized knowledge of advanced topics of interest of particular students.
Expected Outcome 1
Students will be able to summarize these ideas accurately and concisely and to apply these ideas to a variety of organisms and situations.
Method(s), Measure(s), and Instrument(s) for Expected Outcome 1
The Biology Discipline will offer to students a well-rounded core curriculum encompassing the major areas of biology. This core curriculum will include courses in Biological Principles, Biology of Cells, Evolution of Biodiversity, Genetics, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Ecology. The Discipline will also offer students a range of advanced elective courses based on both faculty expertise and student interest. Student achievement of Expected Outcome 1 will be assessed in terms of satisfactory performance on course examinations, term papers, and oral presentations in individual courses. Where possible, students also will be evaluated through their scores on standardized examinations such as the MCAT, VCAT, and GRE, and through their successful entry into graduate or professional programs or full-time employment. Students will be encouraged to develop individually-maintained portfolios to document their progress through the curriculum and to provide a self-evaluation of their increase in understanding of biology as part of a pre-graduation interview with the faculty.
Timeline for the Outcome 1
Starting Date for the Implementation: In Progress
Anticipated Date for the First Results: In Progress
Course-based modes of assessment are already in place and will be used by individual instructors to revise and strengthen their courses as necessary. Students entering in the Fall of 1997 will be encouraged to begin portfolio development and pre-graduation interviews will be introduced in 2001 when this class is ready to graduate. The pregraduation interviews will by done as part of the Senior Seminar program. Beginning in 1998, the Discipline will develop a central tracking system for students that will allow more efficient compilation of data on standardized test scores and better contact with students as they enter graduate or professional schools and/or employment. This system will be developed in coordination with the Career Center and the UMM Alumni Association.

Learning Objective 2
Students will develop the skills necessary to plan, carry out, and interpret field and laboratory studies in biology .
Expected Outcome 2
Students will be able to perform successfully a variety of field studies and laboratory experiments.
Method(s), Measure(s), and Instrument(s) for Expected Outcome 2
The Biology Discipline will include a laboratory or field component in each core course and in most advanced elective courses. Each course will incorporate, through a variety of pedagogical tools, material on the process of science in each course. Student achievement of Expected Outcome 2 will be assessed in terms of performance in laboratory work at various stages within the curriculum. Laboratory work in individual courses will be graded on the basis of written lab reports, oral presentations, and/or poster sessions. Student performance in this area will also be evaluated in terms of their entry into and subsequent performance in summer internships, faculty-supervised research projects, and other research-related activities. Students will be encourage to include lab reports and related materials in their portfolio, along with summaries of any additional research experiences. Questions related to this objective will be included as part of pre-graduation interviews.
Timeline for the Outcome 2
Starting Date for the Implementation: In Progress
Anticipated Date for the First Results: In Progress
Course-based modes of assessment are already in place and will be used by individual instructors to revise and strengthen their courses as necessary. Students entering in 1997 will be encouraged to begin portfolio development and to include lab reports and related materials in their portfolios. Information about off-campus internships and/or research experiments will also be included in the portfolios and entered into the central tracking system to be developed in 1998.

Learning Objective 3
Students will develop effective oral and written communication skills.
Expected Outcome 3
Students will be able to prepare and present clear, cogent, and appropriate talks and papers dealing with a number of biological topics .
Method(s), Measure(s), and Instrument(s) for Expected Outcome 3
The Biology Discipline will offer within courses frequent opportunities for students to develop their oral and written communication skills. This will be done in part through separate courses (Biological Communications I and II in the quarter calendar), Biological Principles (in the semester calendar), and the Senior Seminar. Student achievement of Expected Outcome 3 will be assessed in terms of their successful completion of disciplinary writing and oral requirements as noted above. Success in this area will also be documented through papers and presentations in individual courses as specified by each instructor. The Senior Seminar provides a capstone experience which measures not only oral communication skills but student mastery of the principles of biology, the use of the biological literature, and experimental design and interpretation.
Timeline for the Outcome 3
Starting Date for the Implementation: In Progress
Anticipated Date for the First Results: In Progress
Course-based modes of assessment are already in place and will be used by individual instructors to revise and strengthen the courses as necessary. Biological Communications I and II and the Senior Seminar in Biology are already part of the curriculum. Material from the existing courses in Biological Communications will be incorporated into the new Biological Principles course during the transition to semesters. Students entering in 1997 will be encouraged to begin portfolio development and to include their major papers and summaries of their oral presentation in their portfolios.