Life Sciences

Flashcards and Critical Thinking

Submitted by Amy Weibel on

A straight lecture on cell structures is torture for students. To remedy this, I designed a system of flashcards where each organelle is represented by 3 types of cards: a picture card, a structure card, and a characteristic card. Cards have alignment hints for the other two cards. Each group of 4 students is given one set of 36 cards. They work together to align the 3 cards for each organelle.  While groups are engaged in collaborative work to tease out details about each organelle, I can work more closely with each student as they learn to critically evaluate card content.

Does the early bird get the worm????

Submitted by Rachel Smith on

EMCC has recently instituted a "no late enrollment" policy, due to the understanding that "learning starts on Day One" and the idea that students who enroll after the first day of class generally are not as prepared, and therefore not as successful as their peers who were in the class from the beginning.  However, does this phenomenon reach back even further in time?  Do students who enroll early in a class do better than those that enroll at the last minute (even though they did enroll before the first day)?

Infusing primary literature into the majors science curriculum (2015/16 MILRF project)

Submitted by Rachel Smith on

In this study, a modified CREATE methodology ( was used to incorporate the reading, analysis and discussion of four primary research papers from the recent biological literature into BIO182.  Individual and group activities were used to integrate the papers into the course; some activities were graded, some were not.  Activities included concept mapping, cartooning of experimental design, paragraph summarizing, data transformation, and figure annotation.

Using an Activity to Visualize Kidney Function

Submitted by Weiru Chang on

Osmosis and the movement of water is a common theme in biology courses.  Students first learn the concept in General Biology (Bio181/Bio156), then students have to apply it to human physiology in Anatomy and Physiology (Bio 201/202).  Students have a difficult time understanding this concept as evidenced by only 39% correctly answering a question about osmosis in the kidney on the unit exam.  To address this issue, I utilized a whiteboarding activity to have students critically evaluate how changing osmolarity in the kidney medulla affects water movement from the collecting duct.

Charting My Progress: Using Graphs to Interpret Clinical /Lab Data in BIO 202

Submitted by Muhammad Sandhu on

To take Acid Base Physiology from the classroom to the application level, analysis of clinical scenarios and lab values data is an essential part of learning in BIO202. In order to achieve this objective, we have used the format of lecture and practice problems. At times, I felt the students were having difficulty in grasping the basic concept and then applying it to analyze the given problem to reach diagnosis and predict compensation. Studies have shown that graphic representation of complex clinical data assist in its interpretation.

A little assessment - transcription

Submitted by Bronwen Steele on

Students confuse molecular processes concerning synthesis of macromolecules, particularly DNA, RNA and proteins. I have the students make separate lists of terms they need to know AND clues as to how to keep them separate.The students  come to the board and generate the list - they pass a marker to another student to keep adding to the list. We review as a group and determine if all the terms are lined up correctly. This semester I decided to increase the use of contrasting between the processes based on our lists.

Four exams or Five exams? Or: SOTL research needs controls!!!

Submitted by Rachel Smith on

About half of the points from my BIO181 class come from high stakes exams.  I feel this is necessary to prepare students for their STEM degrees, MCAT, PCAT etc. I split the course content into 5 units with an exam for each unit.  This means giving up 5 class meetings to exams, which for a TR class, is over 2 weeks of class time.   I tried dividing the content into 4 units, with 4 exams. The last 2 exams remained the same, but I took the content from the first 3 exams and split it between 2 exams instead.

Prelab for classes

Submitted by Levi Torrison on

Most chemistry labs are of the "cookbook" style, the labs are a series of steps to perform in the alloted time and not much thought goes into the performance.  The other option is to give students a problem to solve and then give them free reign to design a lab.  Many of the students have no idea where to begin the design phase of a lab and end up just looking up a cookbook lab and trying to make it work.  The other problem with the free reign option is safety and logistics with the laboratory prep.  Is it a safe lab?  Do we have the chemicals, glassware, equipment?

White Cell Table

Submitted by Bronwen Steele on

Teaching immunology is very complex. Understanding what white cells do in fighting pathogens (disease organisms) is difficult for students. For several years I had students fill out a white cell table as homework - name of cell, function, and does it move in the body. I tell students to have it ready for the next lecture. I then have students write on a blank table on the board filling in info at the next lecture. I did not any assessment to see if this table worked.

Using a How To Screencast to find Peer Reviewed Articles

Submitted by Shannon Manuelito on

My BIO 160 students often have difficulty identifying and locating peer reviewed resources for a disease research paper. I have worked with the EMCC librarians to show students databases, citation tools, and a discussion of peer revied versus popular articles. At this time the students used the library website and found two potential resources. To improve this process, Jennifer Wong has created a screencast that shows how to use the library website to locate resources.

Will Increasing The Number of Practical Examples of a Difficult Science Concept Improve Understanding?

Submitted by Charles Bell on

Biology concepts like tonicity are difficult to grasp, especially for students in BIO100.Most students “get it” when a concept is applied to their lives. But the question is, will more practical applications translate to a better understanding of the concept?

Does incorporating a kinesthetic assignment improve student learning of a complex topic?

Submitted by Rachel Smith on

Gene expression is a complex multi-step process that students struggle to learn. There are many terms to memorize and then students need to remember the functions and roles of all the molecular players and the order in which each molecule participates in the overall process. I currently use lecture, diagrams, animations, a worksheet and websites to teach this topic and I have also incorporated a hands-on lab using manipulatives where the students create their own working model of gene expression using yarn, foam pieces, pasta, playdoh, post-its and other random junk (see attached pics).

BIO 160 Common Lab Final

Submitted by Shannon Manuelito on

This semester I have developed a common lab final for the BIO 160 sections offered here at EMCC. This common final will incorporate laboratory activities performed during the semester and is a cumulative final. The common lab final should serve to support similar curriculum across across all sections offered here at EMCC. 

Results from this final will help me identify lab activies that need refinement as well as commonly misunderstood concepts from the class.