PBL and Competency Based Education in Plant Biology

Jon Monroe monroejd at jmu.edu
Thu Nov 18 10:50:05 EST 2004

Hi Martha et al,

Great questions!  For starters, have a look at the ASPB's page on the 
matter, "Principles of Plant Biology, Concepts for Science Education" at 


mmphillips at stkate.edu wrote:

>Dear Plant-Ed,
>Many months ago I queried the group about case studies for teaching plant
>biology - and got some good responses, although there still seems to be not
>much developed for teaching plant biology.   In a similar vein, I'm
>wondering about your experiences in using problem-based learning (aka PBL)
>and competency-based education in plant biology.
>I teach the second semester of our General Biology sequence, in which
>(theoretically) I teach our students something about ecology, evolution,
>and plant biology.  I also teach an upper level plant biology course with
>juniors and seniors who have had the gen bio sequence plus both cell
>biology and genetics.    I find so little evidence of long term retention
>and ability to transfer the knowledge supposedly acquired in the previous
>years that I'm really frustrated and feel a great need to make big changes
>in what I am doing - both in gen bio and in my plant bio course.
>So, my questions to all of you are:
>1)  What do you think are the key competencies that you would want all
>students who take plant bio to come away with?  Maybe it's better phrased
>as what should every citizen know about plants and plant biology (even my
>bio major students are not going to pursue plant biology any further)  Yes,
>there are lots of wonderful things to learn and come to appreciate about
>plants, but  what knowledge, skills, and attitudes are really ESSENTIAL ?
>(Maybe the flip side of this is what are the key misconceptions we want to
>disabuse them of...?)   The key to switching to competency-based learning
>is to determine the core competencies!
>2) What's your experience with problem-based learning.  Do you have good
>examples of problems you've used?  (I must admit to struggling to design
>good ones)    What are your "words to the wise?"   Can one really do PBL
>well in a class of 50?
>Martha Phillips, Ph.D.
>Biology Department
>The College of St. Catherine
>2004 Randolph Avenue
>St. Paul, MN 55105

Jonathan D. Monroe, Associate Professor
Department of Biology, MSC 7801
James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807
office: 540-568-6649, fax: 540-568-3333
email: monroejd at jmu.edu

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