Student Achievement Assessment Committee
Included in this year's report will be both the activities that occurred this past academic year as they relate to the planned activities in our 2003-2004 report and our activities planned for the 2005-2006 academic year.
Upon completion of the baccalaureate degree, students in biological science are expected to:
Understand the scientific process as shown in designing and implementing experiments; Evaluate evidence and differentiate between scientific fact and unscientific arguments; Present scientific information in appropriate oral and written formats to scientific and nonscientific audiences;
Understand the basic principles of living systems as shown by reading and comprehending primary research literature in the biological sciences;
Apply knowledge of biology to address a wide variety of needs and problems, locally and globally.
While not as codified as at the undergraduate level, graduates of our M.S and Ph.D. degree programs are expected to (in addition to the above):
Have a fundamental knowledge of basic biology in all areas of biology;
Have a thorough knowledge and mastery of the research literature in their area of specialty;
Have a thorough knowledge and mastery of the research methodologies, experimental design and data analyses in their area of specialty;
Make a significant contribution to the literature in their research specialty (Ph.D. only).
Master the ability to communicate scientific ideas verbally (e.g., in seminars and lectures) and in written forms (e.g., papers, books, and grant applications).
The Department of Biological Sciences is strongly committed to its teaching and research missions. We hold to the belief that the best instruction, Lit both the graduate and undergraduate levels, comes from faculty and students vibrantly engaged in research. To that end we are committed to improving our research programs in terms of increasing external grant submission and funding, increasing our publication record, and getting more undergraduate students involved in departmental research activities. By extension, we believe this will improve our undergraduate teaching activities and lead to better student recruitment and retention. While not directly related to learning outcomes and assessment, such activities are integral to the ultimate success of our department from a global perspective.
From a global perspective there are indices that the department is having a degree of success in teaching, mentoring and placing our undergraduate and graduate students. These include:
Undergraduate and graduate student recipients of: Goldwater Scholarships, Presidential Scholarship, NSF Predoctoral Fellowship, BART Fellowships, Shanklin Awards, Sigma Xi Grants-in-Aid of Research, Graduate College Graduate Student Teaching Awards, numerous inductees into Phi Beta Kappa, and Citations and Awards from the American Society of Microbiology and the American Society of Parasitologists.
Ph.D. Student Placement:
Since our last program review (1995-96), 51 students have completed their Ph.D.'s (average of 6 students/year; average time to completion of degree, 4.5 years). We have lost contact with one Ph.D. graduate; the other 50 (99%) are all gainfully and professionally employed in positions and careers that utilize their doctoral training: postdoctoral training, pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, tenure track university and college positions, civilian and military careers in government, etc. The Department has an established reputation for turning out extremely competent and independent-thinking Ph.D. graduates -- much sought after by major research institutions in academia, government, and the private sector.
M.S. Student Placement:
Since 1995-96, 185 students have received their M.S. degrees (average 25 students/year; average time to completion of degree, 2 years). We have lost contact with 37 of our M.S. graduates from this pool (20%). Of the remaining 148 graduates (80%) all but 1 (1%) are gainfully employed in professional careers utilizing their M.S. training or they are pursuing more advanced degrees.
Graduate Student Population:
The graduate student population in Biology varies from approximately 70 to 85 full-time, supported students. This past year we supported 87 students, 72 on Graduate College monies (83%) and 15 (17%) on extramural or non-Graduate College funds.
Traditionally, the department maintained a ratio of M.S.:Ph.D. at about 2:1. The Department has committed itself to flipping that ratio, and a couple of years ago passed the 1:1 ratio. The incoming class for 2005-2006 should be approximately 38 full-time M.S. students to 47 full-time Ph.D. students (a ratio of 1:1.24) supported by the Graduate College (67 students, 79%) or extramural funds (18 students, 21%).
Undergraduate Students Involved in Research:
Part of the research mission in the Biology Department is to get undergraduates involved in faculty research. Since the last program review (1995-96), over 750 undergraduates (average 86 students per academic year; 3.3 undergraduates/yr/faculty member) have formally participated (Biol. 401) in faculty research programs. Many of these undergraduates go on to pursue graduate studies and many publish with their research advisors. Several have been supported by extramural funds, including NSF-REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) grants.
Undergraduate Career Success:
An additional note about the success of our undergraduate students: according to the National Science Foundation, BGSU is ranked among the top 8 doctoral institutions in the nation for sending students on to complete their Ph.D.'s.
Updated Assessment Activities 2004-2005 (compared to 2003-2004):
This past year the Department of Biological Sciences continued program review. Major aspects of that program review (and areas which need most to be improved) include: curriculum reform, assessment and research productivity.
Major activities this past year in curricula reform at the undergraduate and graduate level include:
The development of content and inquiry-based learning outcomes for all formal undergraduate and graduate courses in Biology (still in progress 2003-2004).
2004-2005 Update: All formal courses in Biology now have learning outcomes on syllabi (available for inspection in Room 217 LSC).
Revision of the introductory labs to emphasize conceptual knowledge, inquiry-based learning, and the common learning outcomes. This is under the guidance of the new Laboratory Coordinator. This position will be more closely involved in those campus committees concerned with the General Education requirements on campus and involved in teaching organizations across the country. This is an area that has needed serious attention for over a decade. While attempts have been made to make small changes to the curriculum, little action was taken by the department as a whole. Recently, we have taken steps to improve this situation. The first was to hire a Lab Coordinator for our large laboratory courses (BIOL 101, 104, and 204) who is in charge of organizing the labs and training the teaching assistants. One of his major tasks has been to evaluate all of the laboratory exercises and rewrite the laboratory manuals in light of the new learning outcomes, inquiry-based teaching/learning, and emphasis on conceptual knowledge (revised lab manuals for BIOL 101 and 104 available upon request).
2004-2005 Update: Biology 204 and 205 are still undergoing revision (re: inclusion of Physiology). We anticipate that this revision of both lecture and lab content will be completed sometime during the 2005-2006 academic year.
Development of hands-on engaged laboratory exercises. Laboratory exercises are being rewritten in order to promote the learning and understanding of science as a process and Biology as a conceptual field. This will include labs that engage students in creative thinking and problem solving within the bounds of science. In addition, investigative labs (as opposed to cookbook lab exercises) will be employed.
2004-2005 Update: Still in progress, particularly with respect to Biology 204 and 205.
Development of learning outcomes for the Biology majors. This will be accomplished by the reconstituted Curriculum Committee (which now consists of the undergraduate academic advisors) and will involve modifying pedagogy in our introductory courses to move toward more of a conceptual and inquiry-based model. Drs. Paul Moore, Director of the University Honors Program, and Milton Hakel, Eminent Scholar, are helping us in this endeavor.
2004-2005 Update: Learning outcomes on all syllabi, still refining inquiry-based models and will continue to do so during the 2005-2006 academic year.
Elimination of courses that do not fit within the curricular outcomes for our majors. Recently we deleted from the catalog many courses that had not been offered for several years, and we are reviewing others that may be eliminated as well.
2004-2005 Update: On-going; anticipate adding Physiology "track" for biology majors during the 2005-2006 academic y ear.
Development of assessment tools in order to measure progress toward the learning outcomes for the non-major courses and learning outcomes for the majors. We are in the process of developing an exam for our BIOL 204 and 205 majors that will be administered on the first day of class, and on the last day of class. The exact nature of this assessment tool will depend upon the development of learning outcomes. For example, some parts of the exam will be designed to measure content knowledge, while other parts will be designed to measure problem-solving and understanding of biological concepts. We also plan to embed questions into the exams of other courses as well.
We anticipate that the pre- and post-testing exams for the non-majors (BIOL 101 and 104) and majors (BIOL 204 and 205) will be in place Spring semester, 2005 (Dr. Paul Moore is working with us on the inquiry-based aspects of these exams). For the more advanced undergraduate courses, we anticipate having the student assessment be carried out via portfolios. We anticipate that selected courses (e.g., Animal Behavior, Cell Biology, Animal Physiology, Genetics) will follow this model beginning with the 20042005 academic year (if possible, we may pilot e-portfolios spring semester -- Dr. Hakel is helping us with this).
2004-2005 Update: Pre- and post-test exams were developed for Biology 101, 104, 204 and 205 and were administered fall, 2004, and spring, 2005. Copies of these exams are available upon request. In summary, the results of these exams:
|Biol. 101 Spring||55.72%||58.43%|
|Biol. 104 Fall||45.72%||54.64%|
|Biol. 104Q Fall||50.37%||61.70%|
|Biol. 104 Spring||46.22%||49.71%|
|Biol. 204 Fall||50.00%||62.85%|
|Biol. 205 Fall||37.56%||51.77%|
|Biol. 205 Spring||32.40%||50.61%|
Summaries of the test data are attached. We are still evaluating these exams and anticipate changes will be made both in content and in how they are administered, particularly with respect to how the students perceive the importance of such exams.
Portfolios were tried on a limited basis in several courses in 2004-2005 and we anticipate a more extensive involvement in 2005-2006. We have yet to pilot e-portfolios but anticipate this will begin during the coming academic year.
g) At the graduate level, all incoming graduate students -- Fall semester, 2004 -- must take a competency exam (both content and inquiry-based) to measure strengths and weaknesses. The results of these exams will be utilized in the design of the graduate student's program of study.
In addition, all incoming graduate students Fall, 2004, must take a graduate level course in grant writing their first year (Dr. Paul Moore has graciously agreed to teach this new course Spring semester, 2005).
2004-2005 Update: Biology 682, Grant Writing in the Biological Sciences, was inaugurated spring semester 2005. Feedback indicates that it was a great success. This course will probably be required of all future Ph.D. level graduate students and recommended for M.S. level students.
The Graduate Committee is still working on competency exams. We anticipate at this time that such exams will be approved before the start of the academic year 2005-2006. Incoming graduate students will be expected to take competency exams in basic biology in early fall semester and competency exams in their specialty in late spring semester.
Another new requirement for incoming graduate students will be exit interviews before graduation.
h) We will also be changing our teacher evaluations. The current instrument measures "popularity" rather than quality of the course and teacher. The instrument being developed will evaluate effective teaching and learning. This will be more useful for teachers and students, and should lead to course improvements.
2004-2005 Update: No progress on this but we anticipate revising this "metric" during the 2005-2006 academic year.
We anticipate, with the hiring of Dr. Karen Sirum, a pedagogist, that our metrics of assessment will undergo considerable change in the coming year. We also anticipate that she will help us transition into department-wide student assessment in the next couple of years.