Curriculum Alignment with V&C Concepts and Competenecies

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Title of Abstract: Curriculum Alignment with V&C Concepts and Competenecies

Name of Author: Kate Marley
Author Company or Institution: Doane College
Author Title: Associate Professor of Biology
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: All Courses
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum
Approaches: Holistic curriculum alignment with V&C Concepts and Competencies
Keywords: Concepts Competencies Curriculum Holistic Alignment

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: In our most recent re-evaluation and revising of our whole biology curriculum we settled on major structural and conceptual changes that more closely align our curriculum with the recommendations in Vision & Change. Our goals/intended outcome is to develop life science graduates with strong conceptual understanding of biology (V&C Concepts), development of critical thinking, scientific thinking, communication, collaboration, and quantitative reasoning skills (V&C Competencies) with a strong emphasis on authentic research.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: We redesigned our major to open with a first semester open-ended research based inquiry course. Next, students take sequential courses which are organized around the V&C concepts: 1) Energy of Life: Cells to Ecosystems and 2) Information of Life: Genetics to Evolution. In these three courses we also have benchmarks for V&C Competency development. As much as possible our faculty already use, and will continue to increase our use of, active learning techniques and strategies. We have developed common writing rubric for use as consistently as possible across the curriculum. Finally, all our graduating seniors complete a three semester independent research project in collaboration with a faculty mentor. These projects are broad ranging and interdisciplinary whenever possible.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: To evaluate student development of critical thinking skills and experimental design skills we have been using the Experimental Design Ability Test (EDAT, Sirum and Humburg, Bioscene, Vol 37, 2011), using pre-tests and post-tests at specific intervals in the curriculum. To evaluate student conceptual understanding, we developed a holistic concept inventory from concept inventory items collected as broadly as possible across life science disciplines. We aligned these concept inventory items with the V&C Concepts and will use this as a pre and post-test for our incoming freshmen and graduating seniors. To evaluate student development of communication skills, we spent the summer developing a writing rubric intended to be shared with students and used with appropriate modifications in each biology course where students work on technical writing. Indirectly, we also evaluate student perception of their learning gains in all these areas.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: The experimental design emphasis has been in place for 10 years now and we have evidence of statistically significant gains over the four years, with the EDAT showing improved gains after a variety of modifications to our curriculum through the years. The emphasis on scientific thinking and research experience has been transformational for the faculty and students in our department and results in adoption of a research emphasis in all science disciplines. Additionally, our program has been so successful and such a strong complement to research in our social science division, that our college is spreading an emphasis on research opportunities to faculty and students across the college.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Emphasizing research has required changes in faculty load allocation, and fortunately our administration has been sensitive to this need and responsive. It has been a long (many years) and ongoing dialog.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: We have presented posters at various meetings, but otherwise not shared more broadly, as we have used the tools that others have developed.

Acknowledgements: Science Division faculty at Doane College Doane College Academic Affairs Office This work was made possible in part by a grant from the National Center for Research Resources (5P20RR016469) and the National Institute for General Medical Science (NIGMS) (5P20GM103427), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)