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Biological Sciences Learning Outcomes & Assessment Plans

Introduction

The Biological Sciences Department serves a large number of majors with diverse interests and career goals. In order to meet the needs of its students, the department has developed eight curricular tracks. These tracks provide both a solid core of biological sciences knowledge and the specialized courses to allow students to pursue their specific career aspirations.

These tracks include six Bachelor of Science programs:

  • Biological Sciences
  • Pre-professional
  • Pre-physical therapy
  • Cellular, Molecular, and Microbiology
  • Wildlife & Conservation
  • Marine, Freshwater, & Environmental

The department also offers two Bachelor of Arts programs:

  • Human Biology
  • Environmental Biology

These program tracks were developed recognizing the various requirements for admission to professional schools, graduate schools, and to meet professional certifications (e.g., Wildlife & Conservation Biology).

Department Mission

The mission of the Biological Sciences Department is (1) to create and disseminate knowledge through research in three major fields of biological sciences, Cell & Molecular Biology, Ecology & Evolution, and Integrative Physiology & Neuroscience, (2) to provide Biological Sciences students with the highest quality, nationally recognized, undergraduate and graduate education in areas appropriate to student needs, (3) to provide excellent courses in the Biological Sciences in support of the university's general education requirements, (4) to assist the larger community in understanding biological data and the conceptual underpinnings, methods of investigation, and standards of proof appropriate to studies of the natural world, and (5) to support the university’s goals of creating a socially and intellectually diverse academic community.

Biology is the study of life and its components, from molecules to cells to ecosystems. With modern molecular and analytical techniques, our understanding of biological processes is growing rapidly. The study of biology encompasses a broad spectrum of careers, including medicine, research, environmental study, teaching, and many more. The Biological Sciences core curriculum provides a solid basis in biology as well as in-depth introductions to three central fields in biology: Genetics, Cell Biology, and Evolution. Specialized curricula at the upper level include courses designed to prepare students for specific careers, graduate school, and professional school. Regardless of the specialized curricular track chosen, the student will graduate with an excellent training in biological sciences, as well as a thorough preparation for careers and advanced education in biology.

Program Goals/Objectives

  1. Provide knowledge across Biological Sciences core curriculum.
  2. Refine laboratory skills.
  3. Generate synthesis of knowledge.

Expected Learning Outcomes

Student learning outcomes across all eight major tracks can be aligned with Bloom’s Hierarchical Taxonomy of the cognitive domain.

Using this structure, the department will identify where in the curriculum students will benefit from recognizing the levels of knowing, thereby making assessment more transparent and helping students understand the kind of learning necessary to support higher level thinking. As students learn to rank questions according to Bloom’s taxonomy, they take an active role in education and become more effective learners.

Goal/Objective: Provide Knowledge across the BIOS Core Curriculum

Expected Learning Outcomes

Have knowledge of the foundations of Biology as presented in our core curriculum:

  • Introduction to Biological Sciences I & II (1700/1710)
  • Genetics (3100)
  • Cell Biology
  • Evolution

Demonstrate the ability to use the foundation to illustrate concepts and compare examples.

Level of Knowing
  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
Assessment Measures and Strategies
  • Course-embedded measures and grade distributions.
  • Biological Sciences retention measures.
  • Continually assess the success rates (progress, WDF) of students in BIOS 1700 and implement retention strategies.
  • Peer-led team learning.
  • Introduce Levels of Knowing to students in BIOS 1700 and BIOS 1030 prior to their first examination, with emphasis on study skills to master each level.
  • Reintroduce Levels of Knowing to students in BIOS 3100.
  • Exam given on the first day of BIOS 1700 also will be given at the end of 1700 and at the end of BIOS 3100 (Genetics).

Goal/Objective: Refine Laboratory Skills

Expected Learning Outcome

Demonstrate the ability to:

  • Formulate testable hypotheses.
  • Design and conduct experiments.
  • Collect and analyze data.
  • Present findings in written and oral formats.
Level of Knowing
  • Application
  • Analysis
Assessment Measures and Strategies
  • Course-embedded measures.
  • Grade distributions in the three required upper-level laboratory or field courses.
  • Track the number of students pursuing undergraduate research (BIOS 4940, 4950, volunteer, PACE).

Goal/Objective: Generate Synthesis of Knowledge

Expected Learning Outcome
  • Integration and organization of information, concepts, and applications across classes.
Level of Knowing
  • Evaluation
Assessment Measures and Strategies
  • Grade distributions in upper-level BIOS courses.
  • Optional senior thesis research – Track the number and distribution of research and thesis students in the eight major tracks. Track number of students participating in Departmental Honors and OCEES.
  • Optional internship – Track the number and distribution of students selecting internship credit in the various BIOS majors.
  • Promote Biological Sciences T3E courses.
  • Promote Honors research.
  • Maximize opportunities for undergraduate research.
  • Maximize opportunities for internships and BIOS 4981 credit.

Assessment of Expected Learning Outcomes

Demonstrate knowledge of form, function, mechanism, organization, scale, hierarchy, diversity, and evolution.

This learning outcome is based on knowledge content within each of our eight programs. We will assess this outcome by use of course-embedded measures and requiring a minimum grade of C- to progress.

Use knowledge foundation to illustrate concepts and compare examples.

This learning outcome is based on the integration of knowledge content to develop and illustrate biological concepts. Assessment will be based on course-embedded measures.

Complete Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and Statistics coursework.

This learning outcome is based on the fact that Biology is an integrative discipline. Our students will achieve appropriate proficiency in Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics coursework, varying according to the program requirement. This learning outcome will be assessed by course-embedded measures and completion of the National Chemistry exam.

Formulate testable hypotheses, design and conduct experiments, collect and analyze data and present findings in written and oral formats.

This learning outcome is accomplished to a certain degree in introductory coursework and refined through upper-level laboratory or laboratory/field courses. Assessment will be based on course-embedded measures in three required upper-level laboratory or laboratory/field courses.

Complete designated upper-level courses to accomplish required BIOS hours for the selected program track.

This learning outcome emphasizes the necessity of integrating information, concepts, and applications across classes and gaining a strong background in biology to support advancement of the science and career aspirations. Assessment will be based on course-embedded measures in upper level courses and review of students’ performance on standardized exams (e.g. GRE, MCAT, DAT).

Integrate and organize of information, concepts, and applications across classes.

This learning outcome is a reflection of our university requirement as well as the department philosophy that it is important to generate a deeper comprehension and synthesis of knowledge. Assessment will be based on completion of Tier III course and student participation and performance in thesis research and internship.

Explanation of Strategies

Peer Led Team Learning

We will gather data to compare grades between those students in PLTL groups and those not participating in PLTLs to assess the value of the PLTL and how it can be improved. Identification of the topics that create the greatest difficulty can target improvements to PLTL and lecture content. Review of progress and performance in subsequent core courses correlated with BIOS 1700/1710 grades and use of PLTL will determine the effectiveness of PLTL.

Introduce Levels of Knowing

Introducing the Levels of Knowing to students in BIOS 1700 and BIOS 1030 prior to their first examination, with emphasis on study skills to master each level, will encourage student engagement with learning therefore increasing metacognition.

Reintroduce Levels of Knowing to Students in BIOS 3100

Reintroducing the Levels of Knowing will increase students’ ability to develop study skills to better prepare for course embedded measures that emphasize higher level thinking.

Sophomore Survey

Survey students to determine satisfaction with major, available support resources, and ability of students to identify levels of knowing.

Track Standardized Examination Scores

Use them to determine both knowledge of interdisciplinary science and major specific knowledge—which addresses objective 4.

Track the number of students pursuing undergraduate research (BIOS 4940, 4950, volunteer, PACE)

Senior Exit Survey

Survey students to determine satisfaction with major, available support resources, and gather data on career plans and suggestions for program.

Expand Opportunities for Undergraduate and Honors Research

Promote Internships and BIOS 4981 Biological Internship Credit Across All BIOS Major Tracks

Assessment Responsibilities

The assessment program is an ongoing effort implemented by a permanent assessment committee responsible for data gathering, analysis, and subsequent recommendations. The committee will identify successfully implemented learning objectives and learning objectives that require improvement and suggestions for how to improve. Recommendations are made to the Biological Sciences Department Chair.

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