Comprehensive Assessment Tracking System

Life Sciences

Osmosis CATS

Introductory Biology for Allied Health, Bio 156, is a course many students take for the nursing major.  This course teaches a number of concepts that are important and repeated throughout other biology prerequisite courses (Bio 201 Anatomy and Physiology I, Bio 202 Anatomy and Physiology II, and Bio 205 Microbiology), nursing block 1-4 courses, and the NCLEX, nursing certification exam.  The purpose of this CATS is to question whether the concepts we teach are retained through the courses. We decided to pick one topic and study this process.

Channeling My Inner Carl Sagan; Developing Supplemental Videos as OER

Having now completed 3 semesters teaching BIO 182 - General Biology II for Science Majors, the area consistiently identified by student surveys as in need of improvement is the "Quality of the Textbook."  The book is expensive (>$100), and yet, I have observed that many/ most students do not read the supplemental chapters that align with lectures / activities / labs unless I assign end-of-chapter comprehension questions.  Following being awarded a FRACTYL grant last spring, I have been developing an OER, consisting of a series of engaging, supplemental videos that focus on case studies (

Multiple choice or written, does it matter?

46 students took an exam with 50% multiple choice and 50% written. A  t test showed no significant different between the grades from the 2 question types. Linear regression analysis showed an R squared value of .6.  A student getting -8 on the MC, was likely to get close to a -8 on the written.  This suggests to me that test preparation is more important than the type of question asked, but written portions will encourage additional development of writing skills. 

Effect of adding study session during class time

Students do poorly on exam 1. Students participated in a study activity during one class period one week before exam 1. The activity emphasized novel presentation of material (puzzle), repetition, additional study time, interaction with other students and the instructor.  The material studied accounted for about 50% of the first exam. Averages of the exam 1 did not differ from averages of 7 previous classes, but grades of A and B almost doubled in the activity group.

Well That Didn't Work

Students in microbiology struggle with osmosis - the movement of water in and out of cells according to solute content of the environment. This is covered in the pre-req course (BIO 156 or 181). Bio fac have articulated these concepts across the courses. Unfortunately for the last couple of years students were directed to skip the pre-req since HS bio counts. Usually osmosis is taught by introducing terms first then numbers (the conceptual piece) to describe the relative differences in solute concentrations  internal and external to cells.

New Chemistry Concept Inventory - EMCCi

Introductory Chemistry (CHM130) instructors have been using a pre/post test at the beginning and end of the semester in the hope of using the data to determine how conceptual understanding changes as a result of instruction. The original test was not personalized to the curriculum with several topics not even addressed and as a result it was insufficient for detecting student misconceptions. A new Concept Inventory (EMCCi) was developed, thanks to an EMCC learning grant, that was personalized to the CHM130 curriculum.

How can we narrow the holes in the sieve?

BIO 201 is considered a ‘sieve’ class, in that it often weeds out the students who are not ready to advance to more difficult classes, and it is not uncommon for 40-50% of the class to fail, making the holes in the sieve rather large.

High school biology is the only prerequisite to enroll in BIO201 and it seems that students who have taken a BIO 156/181 prior to 201 have performed better.  To evaluate this observation, an informal survey was given to students to gather information about their previous biology experience.  

Practice Practical for BIO 160 Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology

At the end of the semester, students in BIO160 take a cumulative lab practical.  A practical exam is set up in stations, the students physically move from station to station and has a “set up” from a lab.  There are 2-3 questions for each station; the exam is timed.  The first semester giving the practical, the scores were very low.  In an attempt to improve the scores, I gave the students a review and the grades improved slightly.  This has been the routine for a few semesters.  At the end Fall16, I tried a practice practical.  After an informal survey, I found only 2-3 had experience taki