Assessment Report for the Biology Discipline

5/27/03

Introduction

 

This report addresses three measures of educational quality and student satisfaction for the UMM biology major:

1) How happy are our graduating seniors with the UMM biology program and what would they like to see improved?

2) Do pre- and post testing provide evidence that students are gaining knowledge from specific courses?

3) How satisfied with Principles of Biology, our gateway to the major?  Although a “majors” course, annual enrollment exceeds 150 students.

 

Senior Survey

 

Graduating senior biology majors were required to fill out a two-part senior survey.  Twenty-eight students returned the survey.  The first part included contact information and information on research experiences and other activities pursued while attending UMM.  The second part was anonymous and posed the following open-ended queries:

 

1) Please comment on the strengths of the UMM biology curriculum.

Respondents were overwhelmingly positive about the biology faculty and their level of access to that faculty.  Fifteen of the 28 respondents wrote comments praising the dedication, compassion and knowledge of the UMM biology professors.  Respondents also praised the curriculum for providing both a good core foundation and a wide range of electives.  Thirteen of 28 students listed the curriculum as a strength.  Four students specifically singled out the lab portions of our courses for praise.  Labs taught by professors (as opposed to TAs) are seen as an advantage of UMM.

 

2) Please comment on any changes you would like made to the UMM biology curriculum.

            Four respondents suggested that the curriculum is not in need of any changes.  Six of the 28 respondents suggested revisions to our gateway course, Principles of Biology, to improve its relevance and coherence.  A departmental subcommittee worked on revisions to the course last summer (2002), and changes were implemented for 2002-2003.  We have reason to believe that the seniors graduating in 2006 will express more satisfaction with the introductory course (see below). 

Other suggested improvements:

-Four students asked for more than one credit for senior seminar.

-Two students suggested that we require statistics and biostats.

-Four students asked for more offerings in ecology and conservation biology.

 

3) What have been the most valuable parts of your experience in the UMM biology program?

            Seven of the 28 students listed the faculty as the most valuable part of our program.  Ten students mentioned the high quality of our lab courses.  Four students suggested that senior seminar is valuable, and 3 respondents mentioned the research and writing skills learned in our biocommunications course.

 

4) Do you have additional comments?

            One student suggested that our courses are too easy, and a few suggested that our curriculum is too difficult or our grading standards are too high.  There were no other discernable clusters in the “additional comments” section.

 

For year-to-year comparison, we may wish to add a couple of quantitative questions to the next senior survey.

 

Pre-and Post-testing

 

To document the amount of new knowledge students are gleaning from our courses, we gave anonymous pre- and post- tests to three of our courses.

 

Course

Pre-Test Score

Post-Test Score

Source of Test Questions

Biol 3131: Ecology

59%

75%

Biology GRE Subject Test

Biol 4111: Microbiology

45%

66%

Textbook Test Bank

Biol 4211: Biochemistry

46%

79%

Textbook Test Bank

 

These numbers suggest a substantial increase in knowledge over the course of the semester (though of course we would like to do better).

 

Evaluation of our Introductory Course

 

All majors begin the biology curriculum by taking a team-taught survey course focusing on research methods.  This course introduces the students to all of the UMM biology professors and gives them an opportunity to work on their writing skills.  In the past the course has been seen as a bit rough and lacking coherence (see comments by current graduating seniors).  The course was revised fro 2002-2003, and these revisions may have played a role in rising student satisfaction (all numbers are based on 1-5 scale with 5 being the best score):

 

Question

Spring 2002

Spring 2003

Change

Satisfaction with weekly convocation?

3.8

4.1

+0.3

Satisfaction with texts and readings?

3.3

3.7

+0.4

Satisfaction with assignments?

3.5

3.9

+0.4

Did the course meet its objectives?

3.7

3.9

+0.2