[Plant-education] Assessing botany courses for students and faculty

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
  FAX 906-487-3167 

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