Collaborating across biology programs to enhance communication skills

  • Professor Jill Wheeler, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Faculty of Arts and Science
  • Professor Franco Taverna, Human Biology program, Faculty of Arts & Science
  • Professor Chris Garside, Cell and Systems Biology, Faculty of Arts and Science
  • Professor Maria Papaconstantinou, Human Biology program, Faculty of Arts & Science

Abstract

The focus of this project is to promote students’ communication, science literacy, and critical thinking skills across the large first-and second-year Life Sciences courses (BIO120, BIO130, BIO220, BIO230, HMB265, HMB200). The overall goal is to create a series of complementary assignments scaffolded across core introductory Life Sciences courses that will support and develop these skills through articulated learning outcomes.

The project will establish expected learning outcomes for Life Sciences students with respect to their communication, science literacy, and critical thinking skills as they enter upper-level courses and upon completion of their programs. The outcomes will be formulated through (1) consultation with faculty in Life Sciences departments and writing center instructors, (2) focus groups with Life Sciences students, and (3) research of both the scholarship of teaching and learning literature and discipline-specific literature. Once  these outcomes have been established, a coordinated and scaffolded series of assignments that align with teaching goals of the core 100- and 200-level Life Sciences courses will be developed. The relationships between these assignments will be emphasized and  a common terminology will be adopted across the supporting materials, which will be summarized in a glossary. By the end of this project, a curriculum map will be developed for the large first- and second-year Life Sciences courses that shows the development of students’ communication, science literacy, and critical thinking skills while preparing them for more advanced assignments in upper-level Life Sciences courses. This project will have a significant impact given the size of the courses involved – over 2000 students per year