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.
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.
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.
Comparison of changing up information on a question that students have struggled with.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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).