University of Alberta, Department of Biological Sciences

Course Review Information

Current Material on Curricula

Several recent reports and publications discuss the need to develop scientific, and more specifically, biological, literacy. Recent literature also emphasizes the importance of preparing students to engage in research.
  1. Reshaping Teaching in Higher Education: Linking Teaching with Research. 2003. Jenkins, A., R. Breen, R. Lindsay. Kogan Page, London.
  2. The Nature of Research: Inquiry in Academic Contexts. 2001. Brew,A. Routledge/Falmer, London.
  3. Reinventing Undergraduate Education: A Blueprint for America's Research Universities. 1998. The Boyer Commission Report on Educating Undergraduates in the Research University.
    The report suggests ten strategies for improving undergraduate education. Click on the highlighted text to read the report.

  4. Reinventing Undergraduate Education: Three Years after the Boyer Report:
    This follow up to the report above suggests that curriculum improvements have been made for the best students at research intensive universities but that more changes need to be made to reach a broader spectrum of students. Click on the highlighted text to read the report.

  5. Shaping the Future: New Expectations for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education. 1997. A blueprint for a better undergraduate education.

    Other NSF Documents relating to Undergraduate Science Education may be found by clicking here.

  6. Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists: This report from the NAS calls for a major reexamination of current courses and programs to include a strong focus on mathematical, physical and information sciences to prepare students for a more interdisciplinary research future.

  7. Beyond Biology 101: A 1996 report from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute on the teaching of introductory biology in tertiary institutions. Click on the highlighted text to read the report.

  8. Preparing for the 21st Century: The education imperative as outlined by the US National Academy of Sciences in a 1997 report.

  9. Scientific Literacy: An editorial from 'Science' (281:917(1998)) distinguishing between two forms of scientific literacy and the need to educate for them.

  10. Coherence in Science Education. 1998. Bardeen, M.G.; Lederman, L.M. Science 281:178 - 179.

    Here the authors argue that although there has been considerable discussion regarding the need to improve science education in the United States, it has not been easy, especially for scientists who are not educators, to pinpoint specific indicators in individual schools or specific solutions. Bardeen and Lederman focus on two aspects that can give more coherence to science education: the number of years of required science in high school and the need to change the order in which biology, chemistry, and physics are taught to give students the necessary prerequisites for the next stage of study.

  11. Developing Biological Literacy. 1993. A guide to developing secondary and post-secondary Biology curricula. Published by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Survey.

  12. The Liberal Art of Science: Agenda for Action. 1990. The American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    The report emphasises the importance of teaching particular aspects of scientific understanding and of teaching science as science is practiced.

  13. Making Knowledge of Science Public: 1998. The transcript of a radio broadcast by the internationally respected science educator Peter Fensham on what adults remember of science after formal education ends.

  14. Principles of Plant Biology:  Twelve core principles that should be incorporated in science curricula.  Developed by the American Society of Plant Physiology.

  15. College Science: Pass, No-Credit: An Editorial in Science [293(5535):1557 (2001)] by Donald Kennedy with the memorable sentence: "We already have distance learning in most university science courses; it's called the lecture." The edition has a special section on undergraduate education including one by Erik Skokstad entitled 'Information Overload Hampers Biology Reforms'.

  16. Education White Paper 2001. A paper by Russell Edgerton, a past-president of the AAHE, for the Pew Charitable Trusts to support a grant program to support the improvement of higher education. It highlights "four strands of pedagogical reform.

Current Material on Teaching

  1. Science Education Needs Case Studies an item by C.F.Herreid in The Scientist 19(4):10 (2005).

  2. Scientific Teaching. 2004. Handelsman, J., D. Ebert-May, R. Beichner, P. Bruns, A. Chang, R. DeHaan, J. Gentile, S. Lauffer, J. Stewart, S.M. Tilghman, W.B. Wood. Science 304:521-522.
    A challenge for science educators to engage their students in more active learning. Includes URLs to alternative teaching approaches to lecturing.
  3. Science Education: 2003. Powell, K. Spare me the Lecture. Nature 425:234-236 (2003).
    A review of the US experience in dealing with large classes.
  4. Evaluating and Improving Undergraduate Teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics:
    This report from the NAS makes major recommendations for the evaluation of undergraduate curricula and teaching and emphasizes that work in these areas should be recognized as significant scholarly activity.

  5. Beyond Dead Reckoning: Research Priorities for Redirecting American Higher Education:
    This report advocates research on how institutions 1) improve educational quality and institutional performance, 2) balance market forces with higher education's public purpose, and 3) draw new maps for a changing enterprise.

  6. Problem Based Learning in Introductory Biology.
    An example of what came be achieved from the University of Delaware.

  7. Improving Teaching and Learning in Laboratories Hazel, E.; Baillie, C. 1998.
    A HERDSA Gold Guide discussing demonstrations, controlled exercises, experimental exercises and projects. The web site includes an order form.

  8. Learning in the Field: A Manual for Conducting Filed Classes. Manning,M.; Harris,J..; Maher,W.; McQueen,K. 1998.
    A HERDSA Gold Guide.

  9. Designing Courses for Higher Education. Toohey,S. 1999. Open University Press. ISBN 0-335-20049-4.

  10. Restructuring Large Introductory Courses
    Using technology to transform the "foundation" of higher education. A report from the Annenberg/CPB Project.

  11. Educational Technology Strategies
    A series of reports on various aspects of using technologies to support learning.

  12. Problem Based Learning
    A report from the Australian Government on the costs of implementing a PBL approach within traditional professional courses.

  13. Academics' Views of the Relative Roles and Responsibilities of Teachers and Learners in a First-Year University Course. 1998. Akerlind, G.S.; Jenkins, S. Higher Education Research and Development 17(3):277-289.

    Different academic staff in a department hold different views about the teaching of, and learning by, first-year students. This generates unrealistic expectations and assumptions about students. This paper discusses a departmental process for making differing views explicit.

  14. Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER). The American Association of Colleges and Universities dissemination program that connects science and civic engagement by teaching "through" complex, capacious and unsolved public issues, such as natural catastrophes, water quality, HIV disease, the Human Genome Project, energy alternatives, and nuclear disarmament. The site provides links to resources and model courses.

Curriculum Resources

  1. Science and Plants for Schools The SAPS organization promotes plant science and molecular biology teaching. The organisation produces a newsletter Osmosis with details of laboratory exercises.

  3. Sustainability and Environmental Education Resources This site provides links to databases of educational materials on environmental topics.

  5. BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium As their philosophical cornerstone for curriculum development, this group argues that there are 3 P's of science education: problem posing, problem solving, and peer persuasion.

  7. CAREO The Campus Alberta Repository of Educational Objects portal to the MERLOT database and CanCore metatagging standards.

  9. BioDitrl A peer reviewed digital resource library for Biology from the University of Alberta digital lab.

  11. BIODIDAC A bank of digital resources for teaching biology maintained by the University of Ottawa.

  13. Biological Perspectives A new program for Introductory Biology at the tertiary level developed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. 1998.

  15. Project Galileo A link to a site on innovative science teaching methods. The purpose of this server, funded in part by the US National Science Foundation, is to make innovative teaching ideas and materials broadly available to science teachers.

Computer and Communication Issues

  1. E-learning and e-volution in Colleges and Universities A report by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada.
  3. The Power of the Internet for Learning A report of the web-based education commission to the President and Congress of the USA.
  5. Learning Without Limits A report from the US Office of Post-secondary Education.
  7. Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN - Biosciences). A UK repository of resources to support the teaching of biological, agricultural, forestry and food sciences.
  9. Validating Scholarship on University Teaching An Australian report suggesting how learning objects may be peer reviewed.

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Further information on this topic can be obtained by contacting John Hoddinott.

University of Alberta, March 1, 2005.