Biology 110, Fall 2007, Prof. Stark, Assessment report

Text on the assessment form students were given is in Regular font while information and comments from students are in italics. Information as well as future directions are also in italics at the end.

This is the course assessment, not the teacher evaluation - those are collected by department - they are anonymous and not shown to me until after course grades are submitted.

For your information
"Assessment" in Missouri spread after the mid 1980's "Value Added" program of Northeast Missouri State. It was originally intended "to reliably evaluate the quality of educational training." In the late 1990's the Biology Department at Saint Louis University first discussed assessment. On September 21, 2000, "each faculty member" was charged to "develop an outcome assessment tool." Even at this time, the interpretation was one of "student outcomes assessment." In December 2002, "course assessment" replaced "student outcomes assessment," and faculty were directed to collect information used to change or improve the course. There is a link to the assessment reports I have prepared since assessment was mandated at SLU:

Here are the stated objectives of the course:
A student successfully completing this course should have developed:
1) An extensive scholarship and knowledge in the biochemistry of life, cellular biology and energy metabolism, development, genetics, and evolution. This will provide students who have majors in the Doisy College of Health Sciences to acquire a broad foundation in biological science.
2) An understanding of the process of scientific inquiry in biology and the ability to apply pertinent critical thinking skills to solve biologically relevant problems.
3) Experience in utilizing current laboratory techniques.

"The course fulfilled these objectives."
1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree
Mean Score: 1.96
-definately an extensive knowledge and scholarship
-The class covered way too much material to have a deep understanding of any topic.

"These objectives were reasonable."
1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree
Mean Score: 1.56

-This was way more information than I could ever retain. If it had been more general and went into fewer specific details I think I could have kept up and comprehended more of the basic material matter.
-They are appopriate for the amount of information we need to have a basis on
-sometimes the workload was too demanding

"An Introductory course with Physiology was a good idea for your only biology requirement."
1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree
Mean Score: 1.64
-I really enjoyed learning about physiology as did many of my classmates.
-This was way more information than I could ever retain. If it had been more general and went into fewer specific details I think I could have kept up and comprehended more of the basic material matter.
-It will help us in the future since we are allied Health professions.
-I feel like I learned information important to my major
-I'd rather have more biology courses that cover information easier to comprehend to actually grasp the concepts rather than one course and not much retention.

After the end of the semester, I solicited feedback from the chairs of the three departments this course targets. This comment from Dr. Sargeant (PT) relates to this assessment item: "Our students only take one semester of biology and then have Human Physiology in the first semester of sophomore year followed by Human Anatomy in the spring of sophomore year. Your course is really important in laying the foundation for those two classes."

"The selection of topics for emphasis was reasonable."
1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree
Mean Score: 1.96

-Some of the emphasized topics (like mitosis/meiosis, cellular respiration and Mendelian genetics) were topics that I have covered in every biology class I've taken, and learning them yet again was pretty boring. However, the physiology component was relatively new to me and was very interesting. More focus should be put on the topics that students will not have encountered in their ordinary biology courses, and less on the topics they've learned over and over.
-Lots of information, but all appropriate and useful
-I sometimes felt we went too far into specifics instead of focusing on the general points
-Too many topics

"The level of the textbook was appropriate."
1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree
Mean Score: 1.64
-This is the first bio textbook I've used that wasn't overly wordy and boring. I really appreciated that way the authors of the textbook used visual metaphors to describe difficult processes.
-Textbook was interesting and up to date
-I really liked the pictures explaining everything
-Referring to the textbook made it much easier to follow along
-again, we just covered so much material!
-The textbook was helpful
-The text book wasn't really used.

"The Scientific American papers made an interesting supplement."
1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree
Mean Score: 2.16

-I didn't read most of them, but the few that I did were interesting.
-They may have been but I actually never looked at them, sorry. I just don't have time for any extra reading.
-Very relative to life today
-Using the papers made lectures more interesting, though I never read any myself
-Honestly, I did not read them. They may or may not have been interesting, but I am assuming they are
-They were useless to the class. They cost extra money and are not needed to pass the class.
-although sometmes didn't have time to read all of them, were very interesting and a adequate supplement
- I did not read tehm
-Neither I nor anyone I know ever read them.
-I didn't really read very many of the papers.

"The level of the lecture coverage was appropriate."
1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree
Mean Score: 2.02
-I had trouble keeping up.
-We never really got a chance to go in depth in any topics. I feel covering less chapters would allow for more details.
-I had trouble keeping up
-It went very indepth and we covered a lot of info. so much at times I felt overwhelmed by how far in depth I needed to know about things.
-There were times I had wished we could have spent more time on more complicated structures
-The level was fine but again, too much information.

"Having outlines on the web was useful."
1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree
Mean Score:
-I really liked having the outlines given to us, because then I knew where the focus was for each topic, and I could just write in extra information.
-It was very helpful to have the outlines on the web so that we could listen to the lecture and write additional notes that were not already on the outline.
-This class would have been impossible without them!
-Would love if every class had outlines like this
-Helped me follow along in class better
-They made taking notes much much easier, and aided in studying.
-It would have been more helpful to have the power-point slide-shows because those were what the lectures were directly based off of.

"Having applicable test questions from the past on each outline helped for learning and for studying for tests."
1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree
Mean Score: 1.27
-Very useful!
-This was similar to the question above- some of the chapters were so involved and complex, without the sample questions I wouldn't know which direction to go in my studying.
-This was extremely helpful when it came time to study for the tests.
-That helped me a lot, cause I saw questions repeatedly that ended up on the real test.
-It helped me get a feel for the types of questions that would be asked on the test.
-They helped me understand the type of questions I should study for
-told me how in depth to study
-They definitely helped because going through the right and wrong answers is the best way for me to study.

"Having lectures on PowerPoint presentations was appreciated."
1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree
Mean Score:

-I'm a very visual learner, so having the pictures and figures was really helpful.
-It was very helpful for if you missed a class or a couple minutes of a class and needed to hear the lecture.
-Visuals made lectures more interesting
-Very nice
-sometimes the figures were too small to see
-It would be helpful to have them online as well.

"Having lecture sound recordings on-line as PodCasts was appreciated."
1. strongly agree 2. agree 3. disagree 4. strongly disagree
Mean Score: 1.22
-I listened to every lecture both in class and on the PodCast, and that was my most effective study method.
-I'm sure power point presentations are the easiest thing for a large lecture class, but personally I have trouble following lectures like this because the teacher moves along faster than I can take notes
-Was very helpul in studying by relistening to the lectures a second time
-YES! The podcasts and outlines saved my grade! THANK YOU SO MUCH!
-Nice for if you were sick and had to miss class and for studying purposes.
-I was sick a couple of times and this really helped
-Should could go back and review or, if you were sick, you weren't left in the dark
-I loved the podcasts because I was usually tired in 9AM class and the podcast helped me to pay attention better. Plus I was able to pause and to rewind in order to write down important information.
-Once I was finally able to download them (not before the last test - so I honestly don't know if they'll help much or not) but it is a wonderful idea
-This is a great idea, especially for athletes or people who miss class often. The tests are based off of the lecture so I think the podcasts are necessary.
-Students who want to succeed in the class should attend class instead of relying on PodCasts to make up for absence. They may have helped a few students study, but overall shouldn't be available for those too lethargic to attend lecture.
-It was extremely helpful to be able to listen to the lectures a second time and get a better idea of the key points to study
-I did so much better on the exams after I listened to the lectures for a second time because they allowed me to greater understand and retain the material.
-I never used them.
-This probably helped me the most
-I listened to every single podcast and didn't have to worry if I couldn't get to class because of the hassle of getting to the med campus early in the morning.

-The lectures are very hard to listen to because they are long and boring and require A LOT of attention to be able to focus and actually get something out of them.

After the end of the semester, I solicited feedback from the chairs of the three departments this course targets. Several comments, including this comment from Dr. Ebelhar (Nutrition and dietetics), relate to this assessment item: "The podcasts were an obvious hit"

Are there any topics you think should be added to the syllabus in future years?
-I think there is already plenty of information covered.
-More physiology and anatomy!
-The coverage on DNA could be reduced because it seemed like we were learning about DNA forever.
-No. I think the topics were fairly reasonable and nothing huge was missed.

Are there any topics you think should be reduced or eliminated?
-I touched on this above, but I think that there are a lot of topics that are already very familiar to anyone who's taken at least one bio course, topics like Mendelian genetics and cellular respiration and cellular composition. Less emphasis should be placed on those topics, because a lot of us have already been exposed to them multiple times and get very bored learning them again.
-I think the course needs to be narrowed down because there is way too much information on each test that isn't thoroughly explained.
-Maybe some of the lecture on protista and the march through the kingdoms would be a bit shorter. That was a lot of information and we could have had a test on that lecture alone.
-I think the topic of evolution should be reduced.
-As we are health majors, some of the material like evolution and fossils was not necessary to be covered and wasn't very applicable to our majors
-reduce on the different kingdoms
-All of the supplementary random facts are nice for in class, but I
don't think it is necessary to put them on the tests. I think the
tests could be more accurate as far as serving as an assessment of
conceptual knowledge rather than of seemingly nit-picky details
mentioned once or twice in class.
-a few
-Less with chemistry. We take that class at the same time as biology. and don't need to go over it twice.


(1) The class was about 60% PT or Exercise, 7% Nutrition and dietetics, 9% Occupational Therapy or Science, and 24% other, mostly undecided (at the beginning of the semester.
(2) There were 145 students completing the course.

The main thing that went wrong, and how to fix it

Registration was supposed to be restricted to PT, ND & OT. The 24% "other" should have been assigned to Biology 104, not Biology 110. The advisors doing summer registration should do a better job enforcing the registration restrictions. This would (1) avoid many complicated issues; and (2) either lower the class size or allow for increases in the PT, ND and OT programs without increasing class size.

Test statistics

Test 1 - mean=28.95 (out of 50), standard deviation=7.78, high=46, low=11
Test 2 - mean= 32.99 (out of 50), standard deviation=7.25, high=46, low=10
Test 3 - mean= 36.76 (out of 50), standard deviation=6, high=48, low=17
Test 4 - mean= 31.02 (out of 50), standard deviation=6.37, high=44, low=18
Final - mean= 66.66 (out of 100), standard deviation=12.56, high=90, low=29

Interpretation of test statistics

In terms of course assessment, the fact that there are low scores means that the course is definitely challenging; the fact that the high scores average over 90% means that the material can be mastered.

How the test statistics constrain future directions based on student comments

There were a half dozen comments that certain topics were not necessary because students had already had [these topics] in high school and knew these topics thoroughly. That may be true for the top students, but not for everyone based on the test scores. I must teach to the whole class. In order that all students are "on the same page" they must be exposed to these topics at the level of one semester of college biology.


The in-class and final lecture tests determine 75% of the course grade (with the lab counting 25%) since this is a four credit, three hour lecture course with a 3 hr lab. By simple arithmetic, each of the 3 in-class hourly exams which will count (the lowest exam is dropped) determine 15% of your final grade; the final counts 30%. Students were told that exams would be distribured as follows:A 94-100%, A- 90-93.9%, B+ 87-89.9%, B 84-86.9%, B- 80-83.9%, C+ 77-79.9%, C 74-76.9%, C- 70-73.9%, D 57-69.9%, F 0-56.9%. Students were told that, if necessary (and it was), the final course grading will be adjusted upward to be consistent with last year's introductory biology grading.

Grade curve and how it relates to pedagogy and retention

The midterm curve was 2.14. That grade curve was deliberately lower than I intended for the course -- part of my job as a professor is to encourage students to work hard and to learn. The final grade curve was 2.89; there were only 2 Ds and 2 Fs out of 146 students. It would not be acceptable to interfere with PT, ND and OT programs on the basis of student grades in their only biology course their very first semester in college.

Plans for the future

(1) These comments suggest that minimal changes are necessary.

*Cut back on march through the kingdoms
*Cut back on history of life
*Eliminate the supplementary Scientific American readings

*FIRST AND FOREMOST Keep an introductory course with physiology
*ALSO HIGH PRIORITY, a related item, keep this text
*Although one student suggested eliminating chemistry, I argue that it is only one lecture and many topics build on that information.
*Although several students suggested cutting back on genetics, again, it was only one lecture, and covering that material ensures that all students are on the same page.
*Although several students suggested that evolution should be reduced, that is not acceptable in a biology course

(2) Maintain and enhance web materials.
*Now that I have taught THIS course, I can add more and better test questions to the web outlines
*Keep the outlines
*Keep the PodCasts

This page was last updated 1/30/08

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