[Plant-education] Assessing botany courses for students and
Janice M. Glime
jmglime at mtu.edu
Wed Oct 26 09:38:58 EST 2005
I use a variety of grading tools, but tests are still prominent. One
that the students like is a scavenger hunt they do on their own time. For
example, they must find a plant that produces an archegonium or a plant
that has vessels. They can bring a small piece and must identify it to
their UTA. (We have three undergraduates as well as a graduate TA in each
lab to teach.)
They write a report on one of the lab experiments.
And of course there are practicals.
In my organismal bio course, they are graded on proposals, reports,
class presentations in small groups, a scavenger hunt, prelab questions
(questions like write a hypothesis that is appropriate for experiment x,
and other questions that assure they must at least look at what they will
be doing in lab that week).
One possibility for a course like yours might be a case study approach
in which they must apply their knowledge to assess a situation or give
advice. For example, if you teach C3/C4/CAM, you might have students give
advice to agriculture agents (thus setting a higher scientific
understanding expectation than for farmers) regarding longterm effects of
global warming, the sorts of crops that would be best, and why.
We talk about red tides, and this would be a great one for them to take
the role of a science advisor to the county or to the DNR to explain what
is happening and what might be done. Since the DNR folks also have
scientists, they will need to back up their advice with the science. I
show them the toxic terror film and spend an entire lecture talking about
several outbreaks and the evidence for the causes. I understand that some
of the Feisteria stuff has been discredited and need to track down that
Another activity we have done was to have students prepare advice for
the nature conservancy that had just bought a classic Sphagnum-surrounded
lake (actually a fen and not a bog). There were endangered and protected
plants there and they needed to consider the location of a board walk.
For my third "test" students can write a poem, story, make a game, write
a song, make a brochure, or come up with their own creative product
subject to my approval to "teach" the characters that are important to
separate the major plant phyla. Some emphasize life cycles, some
emphasize interesting facts, but all become familiar with the phyla and
generally have fun. I have gotten several great songs! It's a great way
to keep the creative side of the brain from going stale.
If there is a real "audience" or "client" for their work, they will put
more effort in it and be more careful - and have something for their
portfolio when they go job-hunting.
Janice M. Glime, Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Michigan Technological University
Houghton, MI 49931-1295
jmglime at mtu.edu
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