bio sequence

Janice M. Glime jmglime at MTU.EDU
Mon Jan 20 11:35:51 EST 1997

> Dear David and plant-edders,
>   We went through a similar conversion from a sequence of gen bio -
> zoology - botany on a quarter system to 3 terms of biology on a quarter
> system, following the same sequence you (and most texts) have outlined for
> 2 terms, but doing it in three.  However, we put organismal biology in the
> second term. 
>   Here is my assessment of the course, now in its third year.  Our
> original course in zoology had its problems because it did not have a
> clearly defined mission.  Much of what is covered in zoology books is
> taught in the anatomy/physiology course.  The evolutionary approach was
> too advanced for the thinking level of the students and fell on uninspired
> ears.  Thus, removing that from the freshman sequence seemed like a good
> thing to do.
>   Our first year with the full year of biology, we taught the cell biology
> first term.  Students were unprepared for it, lacking the needed chemistry
> understanding.  Furthermore, they were still too naiave about how to study
> for college to really learn much in something so complex and detailed. 
> Thus, we switched the first too terms to put organismal biology first,
> cell biology second.  That works much better.  If I had my druthers, I
> would put the ecology first, then organismal, then some mix of the other
> stuff. 
>   Now, the botany problem.  We moved botany to the second year, as an
> elective in the organismal group.  Students must take at least one
> organismal course.  That's okay, but if students don't take botany, they
> know next to nothing about plants.  I am teaching plant morphology now,
> and after more than 20 years of teaching it after botany, I am really
> struggling now with 2/3 of my class lacking the botany background.  I
> can't move as quickly because I find myself stopping to explain xylem and
> phloem, leaf parts, and other things I could assume before.  I find it
> very uncomfortable teaching plant morphology to sophomores before they
> have botany, but the order of the courses is dictated by our climate and
> lab usage.
>   My personal philosophy is that the freshman year should be used for
> organismal courses and to guide freshman into the standards of a college
> course.  They should learn scientific method, experimental design, proper
> use of the microscope, how to write a scientific paper, how to read to
> learn, how to express and back up a position with scientific data, i.e.,
> how to be a scientist.  They are struggling with how to learn, at least
> for the first term, and they are struggling with all the things that go
> with their first year of independence.  I feel that ecology and evolution
> are senior level courses that should build on all the organismal and other
> courses taught the previous three years.  Otherwise, we can do little
> better than the high school level course they already had.  I think we do
> a real disservice to the discipline and to the student when we start with
> cell biology.  Students need to start with the familiar and go deeper and
> deeper into what makes it work.  They cannot understand the importance of
> peptidase when they don't understand where it sits in the digestive
> system, relative to other parts of the digestive system, or how the
> digestive system compartmentalizes its roles both physically and chemically.
>   I don't envy you the change to semesters.  We have grappled with this
> many times and have avoided the change because of the enormous cost of the
> changeover.
> Janice
> ***********************************
>  Janice M. Glime, Professor  
>  Department of Biological Sciences
>  Michigan Technological University
>  Houghton, MI 49931-1295
>  jmglime at
>  906-487-2546
>  FAX 906-487-3167 
> ***********************************

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