7.391 | Fall 2005 | Undergraduate

Concept-Centered Teaching


1 Introduction - Understanding by Design and the BCF We will begin by introducing ourselves and talking about what each of us hopes to get out of the class, our backgrounds and sources of interest in the subject of the seminar. We will introduce the concepts of integrated curriculum and concept-centered learning. We will also discuss how these principles can be applied to the courses where we have only limited influence. We will also introduce the BCF, the biology concept framework, and we will talk briefly about how such an instrument can be beneficial in teaching and learning.  
2 Meaningful Assessment Guest Speaker - Howard Everson, Co-chair AP Biology/NSF Advisory Committee.

Ideally, assessment is part of the curriculum design, and emphasizes concepts identified as key during the design process. This ideal setup is almost never possible in the context of a large course where problem sets and exams are written and edited throughout the semester. We will hear about both the idea and real-world situations, and about how to bridge the gap.

3 Confronting Student Misconceptions

Key Concepts in Biochemistry

Whether it is our every day experience with falling objects, or our intuitive knowledge of heredity (“in his blood”), we all enter classroom with pre-conceived notions of the concepts at the core of the subject. Some of these pre-conceived notions are in fact misconceptions. Students who learn “over” the misconceptions tend to revert to their original, wrong, ideas after the course is over. It is increasingly becoming an accepted notion that effective teaching identifies and confronts student misconceptions. Today we look at one example of such teaching approach. Additional reading provides another, and a list of many more can be obtained from the instructors.In preparation for your first discussion group meetings, we will discuss the key underlying ideas in introductory biochemistry. We will focus on how the ideas relate to each other and where the “hooks” are that will later connect biochemistry to the other units taught in intro bio. Discussion groups start this week. Alparslan, C., C. Tekkaya, and O. Geban. “Using the conceptual change instruction to improve learning.” Journal of Biological Education 37, no. 3 (2003): 133-7.

_Additional Reading
Odom, A. L. “Secondary and college biology students’ misconceptions about diffusion and osmosis.” American Biology Teacher 57, no. 7 (October, 1995): 409-15.

4 Multiple Intelligences

Key Concepts in Genetics

In 1983 Howard Gardner formulated his theory of Multiple Intelligences. Since then, many books and articles have been written on the subject of MI itself, and, more recently, on how it applies to the educational endeavor. Our discussion will focus on how to apply the principles of MI in the college environment, where large lecture-based courses are the norm. Mbuva, James. Implementation of the Multiple Intelligences Theory in the 21st Century Teaching and Learning Environments: A New Tool for Effective Teaching and Learning in All Levels, 2003. (Report)
5 Concept Mapping

Key Concepts in Molecular Biology

Concept mapping is a technique that asks individual learners to plot the concepts and facts together with their interrelationships in an organizational network that is meaningful to each learner. Based on the assimilation theory of cognitive learning, concept maps have the potential to illuminate student misconceptions and to present a coherent picture of student’s knowledge base. We will discuss pluses and minuses of using concept maps in the context of a large lecture course or a smaller course. Brown, D. S. “High School Biology: A Group Approach to Concept Mapping.” The American Biology Teacher 65 (2003): 192-7.
6 Predictors of Success in College Science

Key Concepts in Gene Regulation

One of the most frustrating aspects of teaching is watching students who by all rights should succeed in your class fail miserably. What factors predicts student success in college level science? And what can be done to improve the chances of the students who do not come from the backgrounds likely to produce success in college science? Today’s paper is focused on college level physics, but some conclusions likely transfer across the spectrum of college science. Sadler, Philip M., and Robert H. Tai. “Success in Introductory College Physics: The Role of High School Preparation.” Science Education 85, no. 2 (2001): 111-36.
7 Cooperative/Group Learning

Key Concepts in Recombinant DNA

One of the buzz words in education today cooperative or group learning. Many flavors of this type of learning exist, most with an emphasis on creating an environment where students accomplish more in a group format than any individual can accomplish by his- or herself. Some models, like the guild model discussed in today’ paper, explicitly encourage the group to capitalize on each individual member’s strengths to accomplish the overall goal. We will discuss applicability of various forms of group work to a number of educational environments. We will also discuss the balance between covering content and developing skills students need to acquire content on their own. Wright, R., and J. Boggs. “Learning Cell Biology as a Team: A Project-Based Approach to Upper-Division Cell Biology.” Cell Biology Education 1 (2002): 145-53.
8 Discussion

Key Concepts in Genomics

This week we take a break from the papers and talk to one of the best educators in the biology department - Dr. Michele Mischke. Now that you have had some experience teaching and have had a chance to read some of the literature on teaching, this freestyle discussion will give you a chance to sound out your ideas and concerns.  
9 Case Studies

Key Concepts in Nervous System

Case method is a method of instruction that focuses on using real-world or made-up cases (case studies) as the main vehicle for learning. The goal is for students to learn through practice. Ideally, the cases are complex and even controversial, such that the students are engaged and motivated to explore the subject. We will discuss the use of cases as a tool, as well as the difference between pure case method and sporadic use of cases in the curriculum. Richmond, G., and B. Neureither. “Making a Case for Cases.” American Biology Teacher 60, no. 5 (1998): 335-42.

_Additional Readings
Smith, R. A., S. K. Murphy. “Using Case Studies to Increase Learning and Interest in Biology.” American Biology Teacher 60, no. 4 (1998): 265-8.

Fasko, D. L. “Case Studies and Methods in Teaching and Learning.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Educators and Scholars. Louisville, KY, April 2003.

10 Gender and Science

Key Concepts in Nervous System

We have all heard the statistics’ women leave science and technology fields in droves at several key points in their education and career. Many of the proposed remedies target administrative decisions. Today we will focus on what we as educators can do to foster classroom environments that are likely to encourage retention. Canada, K., and R. Pringle. “The Role of Gender in College Classroom Interactions: A Social Context Approach.” Sociology of Education 68 (1995): 161-86.
11 Teaching Lab Courses

Key Concepts in Cancer

Lab courses are different from the lecture-based courses in that they by their nature encourage acquisition and application of skills. But the two types of courses are also similar in that ideal outcome of both is deep conceptual understanding. We will discuss the differences in the types of preparation that are needed for cook-book and student-driven active learning labs, as well as the different outcomes that can be expected from each. Levri, E. P., and M. A. Levri. “Hot Salsa: A Laboratory Exercise Exploring the Scientific Method.” The American Biology Teacher 65 (2003): 372-7.
12 Free Discussion This is a week to talk about any concerns that have come up, any topics of interest and/or to discuss some hypothetical classroom situations.  
13 Student Self-assessment

Key Concepts in Immunology and AIDS

In addition to subject-matter assessment, it is often important to understand how the course affects students’ self-perception. Did the student gain confidence in their ability to approach the subject matter or another related field? Are they more likely to pay attention when the subject matter of the course shows up in the media? Are they interested in applying what they learned in their everyday lives? SALG is an instrument that was developed to assess just such questions. We will discuss the instrument itself, as well as the benefits and limitations of using self-assessment. Seymour, E., D. J. Weise, A. B. Hunter, and S. M. Daffinrud. “Creating a Better Mousetrap: On-line Student Assessment of their Learning Gains.” Paper originally presented to the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society Symposium. “Using Real-World Questions to Promote Active Learning.” San Francisco, March 27, 2000.
14 Teaching Evolution

Key Concepts in Molecular Evolution and Stem Cells

Evolution is one of the fundamental subjects of modern science. It is supported by evidence from a diverse set of disciplines. And yet, somehow, the teaching of evolution in the United States remains controversial. We will discuss what it means to teach evolution to the students who graduate from American high schools. Rutledge, M. L., and M. A. Mitchell. “High School Biology Teachers’ Knowledge Structure, Acceptance and Teaching of Evolution.” The American Biology Teacher 64 (2002): 21-8.
15 Wrap-up We will talk about what we learned, how teaching discussion groups affected your view of biology and of teaching, and about how to improve this course.  

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2005